Retrieving the messianic promise of punk

The Clash in 1977

in Working for the clampdown
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That moment when punk first flowered in the UK is so heavily mediated that it is difficult to separate its real meaning from the various fictions that surround it. In this chapter, it is suggested that we need to pare back these multiple mediations in search of the genuinely revolutionary spirit that was abroad in 1977. Due not least to their celebrated synergy with reggae, The Clash attained a political power in that early moment that they would never attain again over the rest of their career. While this flash of creativity would prove to be short-lived, its brevity was central to its potency. As Walter Benjamin suggests, moments such as punk interrupt the continuity of capitalist history, their momentary flowering leaving traces that can provide the substance of future cultural struggles. The chapter concludes with the suggestion that we need to bear this in mind, to recognise that the early songs that The Clash wrote in one period of geopolitical crisis in the distant past might yet prove the inspiration for another generation in this current age of turbulence.

Working for the clampdown

The Clash, the dawn of neoliberalism and the political promise of punk

Editor: Colin Coulter

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