Working for the clampdown

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

Editor: Colin Coulter

There are few bands that have enjoyed as much adoration or endured as much criticism as The Clash. Emerging originally as a principal voice in the burgeoning mid-1970s London punk scene, The Clash would soon cast off the fetters that restricted many of their peers, their musical tastes becoming ever more eclectic and their political field of vision ever more global. In the process, the band would widen the cultural and political horizons of their audience and would for many come to exemplify the power of popular music to change minds. While The Clash would attract a great deal of critical acclaim, this would always be less than universal. In the eyes of their many detractors, the radical political stance of the band was little more than self-mythologising posture, neatly serving the culture industries in their perennial goal of ‘turning rebellion into money’. In this collection, scholars working out of very different contexts and academic traditions set out to examine this most complex and controversial of bands. Across a dozen original essays, the authors provide fresh insights into the music and politics of The Clash in ways that are by turns both critical and celebratory. While the book seeks to locate the band in their own time and place, it also underlines their enduring and indeed very contemporary significance. A common thread running though the essays here is that the songs The Clash wrote four decades ago to document a previous, pivotal moment of geopolitical transformation have a remarkable resonance in our own current moment of prolonged global turbulence. Written in a style that is both scholarly and accessible, Working for the clampdown offers compelling and original takes on one of the most influential and incendiary acts ever to grace a stage.

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‘Working for the clampdown is an excellent piece of work. To speak personally for a brief moment: it reminded me why I love The Clash so much but also why I should continue to analyse my motives for loving them. It is intellectually challenging, wide-ranging, readable and expertly edited. In a field that remains distressingly small, it is set to inspire future critics and to make its own lasting impact.’
James Peacock, Keele University, Popular Music, Vol. 39, Issue 1 (February 2020)
July 2020

‘What gives this volume its strength is its unpacking of the mythological milieu around the band, not least in the complex relationship between the Clash, punk and the emerging political landscape of the late 1970s. [...] Working for the clampdown is a valuable addition to the critical examination of the political, social and aesthetic milieu of punk and, within those complex surroundings, the Clash. Its openness about its subject is refreshing, whilst its chapters are well-written and intriguing.’
Mike Dines, Middlesex University, Punk & Post-Punk, Vol. 9, Issue 1 (2020)
July 2020

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