IN SEARCH OF THE REAL, IN LOVE WITH THE AUTHENTIC: A STUDY OF
IDEOLOGY AND PRACTICE IN THE PUNK SUBCULTURE
FELIPE GEORGE LEWIN
(Under the direction of James Dowd)
Three problems plague most previous research on the "authenticity" of subcultural identities:
Scholars have assumed the objectivity of authenticity and exaggerate style as an objective marker
of him, forgetting to consider how the subcultural concern for him relates to the larger society.
This project informs these questions through an ethnographic study of punk.
subculture. He finds that the meaning of authenticity for punks lies in a value system that
similar to the romantic aesthetic that punks convey authenticity by invoking a consistent narrative
structure to account for their identities, and that punks achieve ontological security regarding
their identities by attending concerts that act as integrative rituals. In conclusion, I
reconceptualizing punk as a subculture of authenticity at its core rather than one where you simply
functions as a status for which participants compete and debate how the larger cultural currents rule
subcultural participation of many individuals.
INDEX WORDS: punk, authenticity, subculture, identity, postmodernity
IN SEARCH OF THE REAL, IN LOVE WITH THE AUTHENTIC: A STUDY OF
IDEOLOGY AND PRACTICE IN THE PUNK SUBCULTURE
FELIPE GEORGE LEWIN
BA, University of Georgia, 2005
A thesis submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Georgia in partial compliance
of the Requirements for the Title
MASTER OF ARTS
felipe george lewin
All rights reserved
IN SEARCH OF THE REAL, IN LOVE WITH THE AUTHENTIC: A STUDY OF
IDEOLOGY AND PRACTICE IN THE PUNK SUBCULTURE
FELIPE GEORGE LEWIN
Professor rektor: James Dowd
Committee: David Smilde
Approved electronic version:
Dean of the PhD school
University of Georgia
To Brian and Sam, who I will always remember as a couple of young punks.
Several people have helped me with this project and I am deeply grateful to all of them.
them. First of all, thanks to Patrick Williams, under whose direction this project began.
and under whose abiding breath it has flourished. without your comments and
insistently, this article would have stagnated and fallen into oblivion. A big thank you must also be heard
Jim Dowd for agreeing to supervise this thesis, for his patience with my efforts, and for
valuable feedback you have provided. Thanks also to David Smilde and Dawn Robinson for
for being on my committee and for giving helpful advice during meetings.
I would also like to thank everyone who attended my lecture “Reconceptualizing Punk
Through Ideology and Authenticity" ved mødet i 2007 i American Sociological
Association in New York, where I presented the preliminary results of this project.
Also, thanks to everyone who attended the January 25, 2008 session of the Georgia Workshop d.
Culture, Power and History, where I presented a more refined version of the subsequent work.
A number of people provided useful comments and criticisms at both conferences, all together
have contributed to and improved this thesis. Last but not least, thank you all.
who took the time to participate in this study. I am especially grateful to those who have helped me
to locate other participants and listen to me as I laboriously worked and cleaned
my thoughts. Of course, more than anyone, I could not have completed this without you
TABLE OF CONTENTS
YES................................................... ................................................ .............. .............. .. ......v
1. INTRODUCTION .............................................. ................................................... .............. ... ... 1
2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ON SUBCULTURES ........................................... . ..... .... 4
3 REVIEW OF THE AUTHENTICITY LITERATURE ............................................... .. ...... 12
4 A BRIEF HISTORY OF PUNK SUBCULTURE .......................................... .. ............. 22
5 DATA AND METHODOLOGY .......................................... .... ............................................... 24
6 THE STORY OF BECOMING A PUNK ........................................ ... ............ 27
7 DEVELOPMENT OF THE AUTHENTIC SELF THROUGH IDEOLOGY
OBLIGATION ................................................. ........................................ 47
8 CONCERTS AS VALIDATION RITUALS............................................ ..... ....................... 72
9 DISCUSSION ..................................... .................................................. . .. ...... ........ 95
10 CONCLUSION ................................................ ................................................... .... .... 104
REFERENCES ................................................... .. ................................................ ................ ................................ 109
APPENDIX ................................................. ................................................ . ........................... 116
A TABLE OF PARTICIPANTS ........................................ .... ............................................... 116
B INTERVIEWSKEMA ......................................................... ................................................ 119
The following project explores a discourse that has come to motivate and organize a large
Treating human behavior in modern times: the search for authenticity. either in
relationship with food (Lu and Fine 1995), tourism (MacCannel 1973), art (Fine 2003), ethnicity
(Grana 1989), or identity (Gergen 1991), a search for the authentic seems ubiquitous,
manifests itself seemingly everywhere in contemporary culture. Seducing individuals of all
(especially the post-materialist middle class) with the promise of the "really real"
(Geertz 1973), serving as a lifeboat to keep them afloat in the turbulent sea of ambiguous signs
that has come to characterize their lived reality, or lack thereof. While scholars have
come to appreciate more and more how important authenticity is to many in modern life,
but very little empirical work has considered how and why infatuation arose,
how it affects behavior and worldviews, or how it is negotiated, constructed and subjective
In the following pages, I report these questions through an ethnographic study of
punk subculture. While a large body of previous work explores how participants in different subcultures
distinguish between "authentic" and "inauthentic" members (e.g., Becker 1963; Williams and
Copes 2005, Williams 2006; Smith-Lahrman 1997), I approach the study of authenticity from a
other angle. In my opinion, advancing our understanding of both authenticity and
subculture, we must start a new conversation that asks fundamentally different kinds
questions. Instead of focusing on how punks look and try to achieve authenticity, I have
explore why authenticity is important to them and what more important role it plays in their lives. It is
In other words, instead of simply taking your concern for authenticity for granted, I try to
connect it to the wider cultural conditions that have nurtured it. I achieve that by
abandon a long tradition that has prioritized the study of material culture over non-
Material culture in subcultural research. By focusing attention on the belief systems that punk
spouse and the personal narratives they offer to account for their identities, I go beyond
merely an emic description of authenticity and instead attempt to explain it theoretically.
In her study of a rave scene, Sarah Thornton (1995) outlines this project by revealing
how authenticity, or the ability to define it, at least functions as "subcultural capital", allowing
participants to achieve and maintain status among their peers. Even recognizes her merits
particular contribution, I suggest that "authenticity" serves as more than a tool for
social status of young people. Analyze data collected from interviews and participants.
observation, I find that the search for authenticity precedes subcultural participation and is profound
involved in two processes: a morally oriented search for self-discovery inspired by
Romantic aesthetics and efforts to stabilize reality in the postmodern state. While these
forces act on society as a whole, I argue that special conditions cause individuals to react
to them in different ways. For those who enter the punk subculture, I find these conditions
They involve a perceived ability to naturally think more critically than others, social distancing.
from peer groups and exposure to a strong identification with punk music. I also explore
processes through which ritual interactions constitute participants' identities as subjectively real
and true, justify the self-perceptions that they themselves have chosen in an environment that
expands infinite possibilities.
The result, I hope, is a work that gives a new perspective on the subculture and more
brilliantly illuminates the meaning and pretext of the authenticity community's latest announcement as a
cultural ideals. Thus, while Hebdige (1979) argues that subcultures represent mere noise as
unlike sound, I will argue in this paper that they actually constitute something deeper,
as widespread cultural goals and an ambiguous but codified ideological system are organized
participation in them - at least when it comes to punk. I would further argue that scholars should not
they no longer uncritically equate subcultures with resistance based on class or generation. while you try
to avoid relying on concepts and language that are too functionalist but
argue that punk is not inherently or necessarily subversive, that it is not individual or
socially "dysfunctional", and actually serves to reproduce many "dominant" cultures.
trends, albeit in intensified if not distorted ways.
A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ON SUBCULTURES
An extensive literature in the sociology of culture considers why young people enter
subcultures, as well as what it means to participate in them. In the last seventy years, two
Theoretical traditions have dominated this debate: functionalism and neo-Marxism. He
functionalist perspective arose primarily among sociologists at the University of Chicago who
they tried to explain deviant behavior in the early 20th century. Frith (1983)
succinctly captures his general position, saying that deviance is "determined by culture."
norms, and not a symptom of psychological deficiency” (p.40). Structure drawing
functionalism by Talcott Parsons, the first sociologists to develop this lens, challenged
prevailing psychological view that an "inherent criminal personality" explained
crime. Based his thought on a series of rich empirical works carried out throughout
Chicago suggested instead that the deviation was the result of the cultural stress that individuals
experience, which is particularly widespread among urban youth. Merton (1938) defined deformation as
inability to meet cultural goals. Emphasizes the prominence of economic success in America
society, postulated that economically deprived individuals experience more stress
frequently and more severely than wealthy people, which explains their higher probability
to perform deviant actions.
Merton (1957) went deeper into his argument and argued that adaptation strategies
arose among poor individuals to overcome their discrepancies between means and ends.
He observed four potential adaptations: 1) innovation occurs when individuals accept cultural goals
but they reject the accepted means of obtaining them; 2) ritualism occurs when individuals reject
cultural goals but continue to accept the means to achieve them; 3) Reprocessing takes place when
individuals reject both cultural goals and the accepted means of achieving them; and 4)
Rebellion occurs when individuals reject cultural goals and the means to achieve them, but
replace both with alternative goals and means. From it, the academics who work within
the functionalist tradition of subculture studies holds that youth subcultures represent rebellion
adaptation to socially anomic conditions.
Cohen best represents this perspective through his study of criminal gang members.
(1955) found that working-class children frustrated their inability to compete for status
system of middle-class institutions, rejected the prevailing cultural means and ends, displacing
both with which could most easily be done. Formulate a more general theory of
subculture, suggested that they arise when a number of young people with a collective
problem comes together because the subculture deals with such problems more effectively than
conventional institutions. The subculture provides an environment through which they can
achieve status, with the development of group norms and boundaries that support their pursuit of
reject the dominant culture that has hitherto attacked them (Baron 1989). Matzah and Sykes (1961)
developed this conceptualization with the intention of further mitigating the pejorative connotations
typically assigned to subcultural participation, arguing that while subcultures offer
maverick routes for pleasure and excitement, are not necessarily anti-social and are not
challenge or disrupt society in ways that others had previously thought. General Chicago
perspective conceptualized subculture as a means of understanding deviance in society
Later work has criticized particular aspects of Chicago School theory.
explanation. First, many critics argue that perspective artificially imposes a division
between subculture and dominant culture, given that in reality there are continuities between both
Empirical studies of subcultural ideologies have revealed this mainstream
Cultural goals are rarely completely discarded and are often still very important to the participants.
Although subculturalists often modify them, the dominant and subcultural goals are not entirely
incompatible. Second, Fine and Kleinman (1979) suggest that by developing a subculture
identity, the participants do not actually abandon the dominant culture; rather regular and fluid
move between each social media. For participants, subcultures are only one of many
networks to which they belong, most of which consist of weak ties. And third, functionalist.
Sociologists tend to overemphasize the importance of economic success as a cultural goal,
disregarding consideration of alternative sources of anomie faced by young people. When investigating
high school status systems, for example, researchers have found that popularity is
generally based on athletic performance, physical attractiveness, and social success, none
of which is necessarily linked to social class (Coleman 1966; Schofield 1981; Merten 1997).
In summary, scholars have thus criticized functionalist accounts of subculture as false
recreate the divide between subculture and mainstream culture and to see cultural values in
too narrow a path.
Strongly influenced by the work of the American functionalists and Gramscianism in the 1960s,
academics from the Center for Contemporary Culture Studies (CCCS) at the University of
Birmingham developed a neo-Marxist tradition of subcultural research during the 1970s.
the publication of Resistance through Rituals (Hall and Jefferson 1976) changed the focus on
studies of subcultures far from a study of how young people coped with local social conditions.
problems to a macroclass perspective where youth subcultures were conceptualized as
spectacular indicators of the ongoing class struggles in British society. For CCCS, subcultures
indicated a range of collective responses to the structural changes taking place in post-war Britain,
that symbolized the perpetuation of class division (Bennett and Kahn-Harris 2004). As such, CCCS
The researchers saw subcultures as class-bound vehicles through which young people struggle[d]
about cultural space” (Brake 1985: 4). Postulating them as a phenomenon of the working class,
theorized that through subcultural involvement, children of working-class parents fared better
"magical" way the structural contradiction of living in a system of cultural values that does not
they reflect the circumstances of their lives or their material interests.
Drawing on Gramsci, Birmingham scholars theorized that subcultures were centered
around a hegemonic struggle to obtain space for development and
expression of alternative ideas to bourgeois ideology and the challenge of what is taken for granted
authority (Bennett and Kahn-Harris 2004). Subcultures became positive reference groups
through which the participants worked to formulate counter-ideologies. They achieved that by
engage in symbolic acts of resistance, manifested primarily in style. style them
held, reflected the ideological values of the members, although the homology between the two
was often ambiguous. Moreover, as a mechanism of social organization, his writings
suggested that the style cultivated group solidarity by promoting internal homogeneity and unity.
differentiation, often striving to reunite disintegrating working-class communities
in the wake of postwar economic expansion, which allowed lower-class citizens to participate
the conspicuous consumer activities of middle-class culture that were previously unaffordable.
In a bittersweet evaluation, the CCCS concluded that subcultural participation
it only seemed like a magical solution to escape the material trappings of social class. While
subversive styles offered a disturbing critique of existing social relations, they lacked the capacity
turn upside down the institutions that maintained an unequal distribution of power and privilege
throughout society. In other words, symbolic resistance could not change the class order based on
society and did not disappoint the concrete problems of youth unemployment in the working class, a
alienating job future, educational disadvantage, etc. (Clark et al. 1976). maybe
more problematically for those in subcultures, the styles proved readily available for appropriation
of a powerful "culture industry". Standardization of style to achieve efficiency and
mass production weakened the culture industry subcultures as local sites of resistance (Clark
1976a). Inevitably, it was thought that the style's ideological origins had been lost in the process
commodity production, exchange and creative appropriation.
Muggleton (2000) explains this process in depth. As the commercialization of style occurs,
participants come to understand subcultures through media representations. from the media
visualizing styles rather than contextualizing them, fashion is correlated with identity.
Culture producers use elements from unrelated subcultures as well as from the dominant culture,
and combine them to create new ways of consuming, making it impossible to
the importance of stabilization. Pastiche becomes the main means of stylistic achievement
innovation, as subcultures feed off each other stylistically. This blurs cultural boundaries.
and meanings and also prevents participants from developing new ideologies that
The technique is based entirely on replication. In addition, the culture industry removes the symbolism
once contained in the styles to make them more amenable to consumption. The general
the process disables them: the acceptable elements are preserved while the controversial ones are avoided
(Clarke 1976a; Hebdige 1979). Ultimately, the identity ceases to have stylistic prescriptions. In it
point where the media leaves the contestants with only images of style due to their ideology
origins are lost, identity simply becomes fashion. Subcultural innovations generalize to
represent a holistic youth culture which destroys resistance, social status consciousness and
the ancient liberation potentials of the subcultures.
While the CCCS approach has dominated much of the existing literature on subculture
studies, researchers have leveled a number of compelling criticisms against it. First McRobbie and Garber
(1975) criticized the CCCS researchers for not taking into account girls' participation in youth programs.
subcultures. Although empirical evidence has revealed that most subcultures tend to be masculine
dominated, there has certainly been no lack of female participation in them. Rather since
CCCS researchers conceptualize subcultures as silver bullets for structural economics
problems of working-class men, women are assumed to occupy only a peripheral role in them
(Baron 1989). Moreover, critics accuse scholars of equating the tradition with youthful consumerism
with working class resistance unreserved (Bennet and Khan-Harris 2004). Many
have found the argument that young people use consumer goods with the express intention
to resist the dominant ideology hard to believe. This component of CCCS theory is also based on
the essentialist notion that subcultural participants exclusively understand, or at least
predominantly — working-class youth. This is also shown by field studies
subcultural participants come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and who
consumption activities are directed towards the project of developing unique identities and have
just as much fun, if not more, than in endurance.
Underlying all these criticisms is a question regarding the CCCS
method. Birmingham scholars relied primarily on semiotic analysis to explore meaning
of youth subcultures that concentrate on the symbolic aspects of subcultural consumption rather than
the real meanings that young people attach to their own behavior (Miles 2000).
Consequently, studies rooted in this paradigm have not taken into account local variations in youth.
responses to music and style that assume uniformity of subcultural meaning. emphasizing
spectacular behaviors and images that promote semiotic evaluation they also neglected
consider the everyday and mundane aspects of subcultural participation. So while it offers many
contribution to our understanding of subculture, CCCS included the study of subculture within
the parameters of a rather narrow discourse (Bennett and Kahn-Harris 2004).
In recent decades, researchers have advanced the study of subcultures through
applying a microsociological perspective which views subculture as “a set of
understandings, behaviors and artefacts used by particular groups and communicated through
interlocking group networks” (Fine and Kleinman 1979, p. 18). The resulting work has
problematized the supposed division between the subculture and the dominant culture and downplayed its importance
Birmingham's concentration on class and stamina. Basically abandon the use of
semiotic analysis, many researchers have brought sociology and qualitative methods back to
investigation of subculture, examine how young people construct identities, draw boundaries and
negotiate subcultural meaning within local settings. The resulting empirical results have
problematized the “heroic” terms in which the CCCS work has cast subcultural participants and has
they also often failed to identify coherent political projects in them.
Muggleton (2000) groups these works under the heading of "post-subculture" studies.
Although the paradigm is loosely defined, those who work within it tend to believe that
The concept of subculture has become obsolete due to the total subversion of the culture industry.
style as a significant form of resistance. In the introduction to his anthology on post-subculture
studies, Muggleton writes "... the style's very potential to resist seems largely lost, with possibly
'inherent' subversive quality to subcultures exposed as an illusion” (p. 5). So move
away from the CCCS conceptualization of subcultures as realistic entities rooted in class-
relations, scholars in this tradition take a position more closely aligned with Fine and
Kleinman's symbolic interactionism, seeing them as socially constructed phenomena that
participants and media negotiate through interaction, an approach that is strictly anti-
essentialist in relation to CCCS theorizing.
The ethnographic work of Sarah Thornton (1995) perhaps best represents the analysis
methods and theoretical orientation of those who subscribe to post-subcultural studies. In its
Considered as a study of club culture, it appropriates Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital
to illuminate the fluid and dynamic nature in which subcultural boundaries are drawn and entered
perceptions of authenticity are sown. His analysis evades a class discussion based on
subversion and does not focus on the autonomy of the culture's sign system. she reveals instead
how individuals of different status within the scene negotiate the meaning of their signs,
find, in contrast to the romanticism of the CCCS, that material inequalities were reproduced internally
within the scene in question. While such work clearly disappoints many of the critics
v. Birmingham, Muggleton scholarship, accuses many post-subculture scholars of investing
The error of CCCS academics in subpoliticizing subcultures and viewing them as hedonistic,
individualistically and politically separate. Rather, he suggests that participants do more
than simply competing for status within empty and arbitrary groups.
A REVIEW OF THE AUTHENTICITY LITERATURE
Current empirical studies of the subculture, many of which fall within the parameters of post-
studies of subcultures, have identified identity and authenticity as central analytical dimensions of
subcultural studies. Much work (for example, Williams and Copes 2005, Williams 2006; Andes
1998; Widdicombe 1998) approached through this lens reveals that subculturalists aspire to
construct "authentic" identities. My conception of authenticity involves a metaphysical concern
with "being" versus "doing" in relation to the concept of self, manifests itself in the strategy
use of slang, style of dress and behaviour. However, there have been three general problems
frustrated earlier attempts to develop a dynamic conceptualization of authenticity and
understand the processes through which subculturalists attempt to achieve subjective and
experience it. First, many researchers uncritically assume the objectivity of authenticity
to assign typological qualities to both those considered authentic and inauthentic. While
this problem reflects an increasingly common tendency among scholars to prioritize essentialist theories
explanations of the social phenomena of the constructivists, its origins are found in the writings of the CCCS
about the incorporation in the media of the subcultural style.
Hebdige (1979) argues that subcultures are authentic only in their moments of
conception and argues that in these moments, which are inherently fleeting, they express
prohibited content (such as class and difference consciousness) through prohibited forms (such as
such as violations of dress and conduct codes). But the media soon place
subcultural resistance within a dominant framework of meaning, bringing it back to the referential.
link. He then transforms his signs into mass-produced objects, brands and redefines
deviant practices that the participants performed in the first place. This compromises the power and
The "authenticity" of subcultures deprives them of the otherness they so passionately fight for.
to provoke. In short, Hebdige claims that the media "domesticate" subcultures,
making them more mundane, less spectacular and ultimately less threatening. He and other CCCS
scholars thus associate authenticity with radical resistance, rendered impossible by stylistic cooperation.
Subcultures therefore invariably become inauthentic after the incorporation of the mass media pollutes them.
of conservative political ideology (Muggleton 2000).
Although researchers working within the subculture paradigm have a constructivist approach
attitude to authenticity, they routinely attribute typological qualities to the groups they
inquiry that takes care of the task of categorically defining what constitutes
authentic in them. In this work, although I maintain an emphasis on negotiation processes,
place less importance on their results. Based on the largest corpus within microsociology,
take a more nuanced approach to the study of authenticity and argue that it never possesses
concrete properties. This means that I see authenticity as an emic rather than an etic.
concept: a concept that people use in their daily lives that influences their behavior in
defined paths, but which do not possess concrete existence or properties. That's why I suggest it
individuals cannot objectively possess or achieve authenticity and distance from the past
The social sciences try to distinguish between "authentic" and "inauthentic" subcultures and
"Authentic" and "inauthentic" subcultural participants. Rather as conceptualization of
authenticity, which Peterson (1997) develops in his exploration of country music, I see it as a
socially constructed concept negotiated through interaction, a claim made by those involved in
subculture that is legitimized or denied by relevant others.
By assigning specific characteristics to those deemed authentic, we risk privileging and
reification of dominant notions of the authentic while marginalizing the voices of those on the ground.
called the periphery of the subculture. Also, since subcultures generally aren't much
individual, institutionalized parties and groups cannot impose their own aesthetic standards
them. On the contrary, notions of authenticity arise through the interaction between different actors within
historical circumstances. As with country music, the importance of authenticity for subcultural
participants vary with time, space and between different members. By assuming that
constitutes something that participants simply have or do not have, as both CCCS and
post-subculture studies tend to do, we obscure the negotiation processes in which
subculturalists participate in the construction of authenticity and ignore the reasons for it
authenticity concerns them first. More generally, these realistic guidelines do not fit
concreteness by assuming that "authenticity" constitutes a tangible phenomenon that can
objectively located and coded. I, on the other hand, will treat it as a subjective opinion.
Second, many researchers have attempted to understand subculture through a
exploration of style and, as a natural result, his work has tended to frame authenticity
purely stylistically. This tradition has an unequivocal origin. From CCCS
Seeing the style as a sign of something else, they used semiotic analysis to interpret it.
Subsequently, his scholarship built a tradition that has overemphasized the study of material.
culture to the detriment of immaterial culture. In fact, the subcultural style, so prominent and
exciting to the sociological eye, it has become the most commonly analyzed dimension of
subculture studies: scholars have framed, interpreted and defined subcultures through the
choosing to measure concepts such as commitment and authenticity against stylistic conformity
(f.eks. Fox 1987).
As elements of subcultural style are routinely co-opted and consequently distorted
by the profit-driven culture industry, style is quickly marginalized as a resource of
that subculturalists can draw on in the search for "authenticity". In addition, many empirical studies
have examined how participants regularly claim to be genuine while simply accusing others
talk or dress in a certain way to look cool or fit in (Widdicombe
and Woofitt 1990; Baron 1989). Therefore, it seems that people are actively working to develop images
through displays of style with the perceived intention of representing a social category are rejected in
rather than allowing such categories to reflect a pre-existing self. Given these results, more
examination of the ideology that represents a personal dimension of authenticity which refers to how
individuals attempt to frame their subcultural participation as part of a larger life project, i.e
independent of external influence (Williams 2005), it is fine. In short, at this point,
there is reason to prioritize the study of the subculture's non-material aspects over its dress
Third and finally, no attempt is made to understand or place the search for
authenticity among subcultural participants within the later broader social context
modernity/postmodernity. Authenticity reflects a more general modernist concern with
self-actualization, as Taylor (1992) describes in his work The Culture of Authenticity. Below
mid-eighteenth century, the sensibility, rationality, and assertion of Enlightenment ideals
increasingly began to outrage young intellectuals, writers, musicians and artists (Boyle 2004).
While Enlightenment thinkers emphasized deductive reason and a strict adherence to method, a
new class of romantics began to extol the virtues of intuition, imagination and feeling.
Rousseau exemplifies this position in his glorification of the "noble savage" who is in contact with
their natural instincts. By reacting against rationalists such as Descartes rejected romantic thinkers
the prevailing creed "I think therefore I am", replacing it with a position more akin to "I feel therefore I am".
then I exist.” Boyle (2004) argues that this mentality has caused a
the contemporary belief that people must live life on the edge and at the same time recognize social rules
and make a living from them, a theme that many advertisers take advantage of when marketing
consumer products. Taylor, treating the argument further, argues that the ideal of
authenticity has facilitated the belief that humans are inherently imbued with moral codes
which must be explored and clarified in order to actualize their potentials. suggest that we
living in a "culture of authenticity" suggests that we have come to interpret people as beings
with internal depths. Being in contact with oneself has thus acquired an independent moral character.
importance and has come to supplant earlier efforts to achieve connection with God.
As anticipated above, this belief system owes much to Rousseau, who is influential
advocated that people should follow their inner voices and resist pressures and urges
society to regain intimate moral contact with itself. Rousseau also to a great extent
founded the notion of "freedom of self-determination," which suggests that individuals become free
only when they independently determine their own interests instead of allowing themselves to be so
formed by external influences. Expanding on this argument, Herder postulated that all people
possess original ways of being human, and it knows not to be able to locate or actualize those unique ways
existence banishes them to conditions of inhumanity and incompleteness. self visualization
as an instrument, according to this philosophical position, as when individuals subvert
believed to confuse discovery and updating
of the inner voice, frustrates one's life purpose and undermines the attainment of moral purity.
This metaphysical orientation in particular has been much criticized and denigrated as a malaise.
of modernity (see, for example, Lasch 1979; Bell 1976), with theorists arguing that focusing
preoccupation with self narrows the lives of individuals, making them poorer in meaning and smaller
concerned about others and society, pejoratively labeling it a "culture of narcissism" and
"my generation." Much indicates, however, that a deep concern for
Self-actualization was introduced with the modern age that values self-exploration and individuality
about rich social engagement and conformity.
Perhaps it provides a more sociological view of this phenomenon anchored in a lens of
identity rather than "authenticity," Ralph Turner (1976) has argued that the types of actions and
feelings that people in advanced industrial societies recognize as emanations of their "reality".
they themselves change. Turner postulates that people's self-concepts tended to be rooted in
institutional framework before the emergence of the post-industrial society. Under this place of self,
people attached their self-concepts to the social roles they occupied and implicitly operated under
the assumption that the self was something to be achieved, created and achieved. Therefore it is
projected into the future and revealed when individuals adhere to high standards and goals
despite the allure of primal temptations.
However, Turner speculates that nascent forces are moving society away from one
institutional emphasis of the self to one rooted in deeply felt urges suggesting that
people are now more likely to experience personal reality in the design and expression of
instincts as opposed to the social roles they have assumed or assumed. during the urge
locus, people discover rather than create their real selves through intense introspection. The truth
The self is revealed when individuals drop their inhibitions and base their actions on desire.
more than on justice or propriety, regardless of the social consequences it entails.
1 Turner suggests that the demarcation between feelings and actions that represent the real self and those that do not.
has three components. First, it is based on a discrimination between the real and the unreal in experience; secondly, that
it is based on a distinction between the attribution to the person and the attribution to the situation; and thirdly, the notion of
the real self embodies the sense of a realm that is distinctly personal and sacred.
Thus the real itself exists in the present and not in the future, since individuals resist the external.
social pressure to avoid succumbing to a league of rules and regulations that
perceived as insignificant. To put it another way, while those who have an institutional place for themselves
to experience social rules and regulations as values that facilitate self-realization by delivering
moral standards and teleological goals to adhere to and pursue, the experience of self-affirmation
impulse transforms the institutional order into a set of rules that arbitrarily limit one's own
ability to enter into genuine expression.
Without drawing any definitive conclusions as to why such a change occurs,
Turner cites changes in cultural definitions of reality, changes in the terms of integration within
mass society, and the emergence of new and unprecedented opportunities to satisfy impulses such as
potential catalysts. It also indicates that many institutional frameworks that once provided
opportunities for self-definition are increasingly unstable and unpredictable. His
Hence the argument that the increasing length of time and the increasing ambiguity between the action
and the rewards within such systems make the institutional loci of the self look and feel less real than the loci of the self.
of the self rooted in the impulses. Thus, what Taylor and Boyle describe as a morally oriented search
for authenticity inspired by the intellectual statements of romantic thinkers can also be
seen as a change in the way individuals experience their personal realities and anchor their self-
notions - a change based on concrete social and material transformations in
industrial societies facing changing philosophical and ideational currents. Extrapolation
Based on Turner's analysis, one can then argue that the drive for authenticity is not necessarily one
recent development, but one that has been around for centuries. According to Turner
But in the theorizing it is now expressed in self-actualization rather than self-creation.
But paradoxically converging with this burgeoning ideal of self-realization,
Contemporary social theory has increasingly dealt with the instability of the self as
as well as culture in general. Allan (1998) argues that forward gear
capitalism: globalization, media, advertising, commodity, information technology,
and new modes of transport - have fragmented reality. In other words, postmodernity has
left individuals reeling in a sea of mass-produced commodified cultural images
media. In particular, Gergen (1991) claims that the subject has become saturated with images
they are inconsistent and independent. New technologies which increase the frequency and
transforming the nature of social encounters, flooding individuals with knowledge of different
groups, different people, different values and different forms of expression. in this style,
Giddens argues that advanced capitalism has spawned the development of a "radical reflexivity"
between individuals where "nothing is permanent and things are true so far"
The general population, he postulates, has internalized a sense of doubt about
knowledge, and sees it as transitory and unstable. As a result, we lead an unnatural reflexivity
against our self-perceptions, increasing our self-control in a socially saturated culture and
full of constant change and doubt. The ability to maintain a coherent self-narrative is therefore
complicated, and the individual comes to doubt the objectified self. Bauman (1991) more
explains this problem, saying that as the world has become deinstitutionalized, with status ascribed
it no longer produces strong or constant effects on our self-perceptions. This catalyzes people to
participate in self-constitution projects that do not have a benchmark for evaluation or follow-up,
causes them to experience great uncertainty about their identity.
In The Meaning of Culture, Allan (1998) rooted his position in Heidegger's work
and Giddens, states that humans have a basic need for "ontological security" and to impose
"actually" about their experienced world. In this way, we can see postmodernity as one
"problem" for individuals in terms of both the construction of reality and the formation of identity. David
Boyle (2004) talks about the extent of this problem in modern society and points out how
people, especially the post-materialist middle classes, are afraid that their control over
Reality slips away from them, because of the feeling that it is for sale, is fast
commodified, packaged and sold back to them in an artificial form. Like Allan, he argues for it
we live in a world where nothing is what it seems, which has created a desire for reality
and stability. This especially weighs on people, as it due to the influence of
Romantic thinkers: authenticity has risen as a cultural goal. At that very moment
people are expected to find themselves, the ability to do so as well as the ability to feel a sensation
it has become monumentally difficult to be sure to do so.
In summary, while Taylor connects our concern for authenticity with the rest of Romantic literature
thought, and although Turner suggests that it reflects a transformation in the way people
Boyle and Allan experience their self-perceptions that we have come to celebrate
authenticity to balance the extreme displacement of our lives in the postmodern condition,
where time and space are no longer grounded. The doubt that we have internalized it has
led to a radical reflexivity and decentering of the self, has spawned an obsession in us with
about distinguishing between the true and the false. Boyle gives several examples of
questions that occupy us in our daily lives: Is Jerry Springer a staging? is really a person
beautiful if you had cosmetic surgery? Does climbing Mount Everest really count if you
was helped with an oxygen supply? It is in this context that I approach the investigation
authenticity in relation to punks. As opposed to researching the subculture in a vacuum, I have
recognize the relevance and importance of authenticity in the wider social environment which,
as mentioned above, it allows me to pursue an alternative conversation to advance ours
understanding of both phenomena.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PUNK SUBCULTURE
In this section I offer a brief genealogy of the punk subculture to contextualize and
acquaint readers with the ethnographic findings that follow. Although both the academy and
commercial press provides a relatively consistent narrative of the birth and maturation of punk, the
The theoretical perspective of CCCS - especially Hebdige's work - clearly influences both
accounts Considering the criticism of the semiotic methods of analysis on which
confident, it is important to note that the "objectivity" of these narratives is somewhat in doubt.
With this in mind, researchers generally date the genesis of the subculture to the years 1976-1977.
Before this time, many people had begun to feel that rock music had become bland and
pretentious, misses the place of its unwieldy and radical roots. Following the example of the Sex Pistols
and The Ramones, who were the first progenitors of the genre, dozens of punk bands formed in
to address these concerns, most of them located in urban areas of the United States and
United Kingdom. These early punk bands celebrated their amateurism. In an attempt to reconstitute
rock music as a populist cultural medium displaced technical virtuosity and pomposity
with passion, energy and caustic lyrics. See existing recording and performance standards such as
equally pretentious, punk bands emphasized a do-it-yourself ethic regarding both
cultural production and daily life (Moore 2007). Embracing DIY, they recorded their own
albums, booked their own tours and created their own magazines.
The musical form described above became a convenient channel for young people to use
to express the feelings of alienation, anxiety and fatalism that resulted from
changing social, political, and economic conditions in the United States and Great Britain during
1970s (Gaines 1991). The subculture quickly became known as an outlet to express
dissatisfaction with social injustice. The punks denounced capitalist inequality, deindustrialization,
government corruption, and a cultural trend that swung more and more to the right
(O'Hara 1999). The punks also expressed their frustration with local issues: canceling the feeling of
impotence as a result of their positions in educational and family institutions,
challenged the idea that other people had the right to decide how to live and
values that they must adhere to. Thus, most of the participants came to reject conventions that
limited self-expression, developing a style that emphasized the profane. respected punk style
eccentric and obscene standards that took a raw and often disgusting form, deliberately seeking
violate common conventions and feelings. Typical clothing demonstrations included public
vulgarity, mohawks, studs in leather and self-destructive acts such as drug use. In the realization of
these activities the punks tried to creatively outrage the system and reject
conformity, challenge prevailing ways of thinking and reject multiple forms of authority.
INFORMATION AND METHODOLOGY
I did initial research for this project in the fall of 2004, but collected data from the lion.
part of my data from autumn 2007 to spring 2008. I participated in an ethnographic field study,
observe and analyze the behavior of a local group of self-identified punks. To have one
personal history of subcultural involvement, knew several subjects before the research started.
But as the fieldwork intensified, I contacted several other participants with whom
was not known before. Much of my participant observation consisted of participating in punk
concerts Due to the convergence of my research and personal interests, I attended many of these
during my investigation. I also participated in mundane social outings to catch up
the empirical gaps for which CCCS work is often criticized (Clarke 1997). social outings
it assumed a variety of forms; I attended parties with attendees, hung out at informal gatherings with
them and also participated in some local political projects where some were engaged. Given
In my previous relationships with the participants, I was treated as an informant at both concerts and informal gatherings.
excursions I feel this strengthened my data as it allowed me to integrate well into
subculture as a sociologist. Furthermore, given my implicit understanding of the subculture
system of meaning, I often think I could feel what the participants experienced, what
increased my understanding of what was going on (Kidder 2006). After most excursions I wrote
self-reflective field notes. Although it does not formally incorporate autoethnography as an analytical tool
strategy, I tried through the research to examine my own experiences and reactions to
special events to illuminate the research questions. This mainly took the form of parentheses
field notes of personal experiences and interactions at concerts and social outings.
Although I make use of participant observation, most of my data and analyzes come from in-
in-depth, semi-structured interviews (n=20). I conducted four interviews during 2004 which came
of personal acquaintances. I completed the remaining 16 during the fall and spring of 2007
2008. In an effort to diversify my sample, I did not trust those in my network for
Second batch of interviews. Instead, I contacted members of local punk bands, individuals
discussing punk related topics on a local internet forum and people I met at concerts
and in informal outings. I also made heavy use of snowball sampling. The interviews lasted 45
minutes to two hours and covered a variety of topics including: the experiences of
participants before they became punk; how they became involved in the subculture; which values
and beliefs they associated with punk; what personal meaning it had for them; what role do they have
he believed that the style, especially the music, was suitable for punk; how they separated the inmates from
outsiders; what was the experience of going to concerts like; the meaning and results of actions
of the resistance they had undertaken; and a series of questions regarding your
social and political views. Given the means through which I recruited some informants, not all
of them necessarily recognized me as an informant. However, I have no reason to suspect that
withheld information or honesty during interviews. Some participants had too
externally crafted journal entries given their punk identity and subculture
experiences. These subjects offered to contribute to my data warehouse for content analysis.
I used these tickets mainly to discuss the experience of going to concerts, like most of them
In general, the sampling was based on the convenience and theoretical needs of the project.
Although the subjects did not represent the subculture as a whole and were not randomly derived, they all were
initiates who possessed valuable and essential knowledge. Given my interest in exploring ideology,
The data is robust as members of the particular group I interacted with often did not
they were aware of punk's stylistic elements and regularly rejected and distanced themselves from them,
which uniquely informed my investigations. The participants were from different social backgrounds and
ideology. 14 of the interviewees were men and 6 women. while experiencing some
difficulties in recruiting female participants given the demographics of the local scene, I did one
a concerted effort to do so to account for women's experiences within punk, an effort
which the CCCS scholarship, as mentioned, did not achieve.
I used an emergent analytic coding strategy to analyze the data. Wearing
interview transcripts, field notes and personal diary entries, I actively searched for patterns
and themes that cut across all data collected from subjects (Charmez 1994). used to
continuous and repeated abstraction in an attempt to truly understand "what was going on". Mine
The analysis also uses triangulation (Massey & Walford 1999), which makes use of several forms of
data, as well as different methodological strategies. When I encoded my data, I relied on both
phenomenological strategies and grounded theory to reach conclusions.
THE STORY OF BECOMING PUNK
A narrative is a group of statements that provide a temporal and moral order to a set of events.
(Ewick and Silbey 1995). In this section of the document, based on interview data,
explores the rather ubiquitous narrative of becoming punk. The narratives that punks deliver
account of their identities has sociological significance, as individuals typically
explain their actions to themselves through stories. Ewick and Silbey go so far as to suggest that
one's self-concept can be understood as a developing narrative. In addition, the stories describe
the world as lived and understood by the narrator. Storytelling is also strategic. people relate
special stories to further your goals and interests. Study the tale of
becoming punk therefore provides insight into how subcultural participants see themselves, how
be placed in larger social contexts, how they evoke perceptions of authenticity among
others and in themselves and how they have come to adopt certain value systems.
The narrative that came out of my research consists of four main parts: garden
he felt different from others and had the ability to think more critically than they did;
having been marginalized by peer groups; has strongly identified with punk music; and
have acquired the ability to engage in a project of self-exploration through active subcultural activities
effort. In their accounts, the interviewees maintained that they did not "become" punks. It is
That is, they denied having made conscious choices at certain times in their lives to identify
and participate in the subculture. On the contrary, they claimed that they had always possessed
essences of their punk identities within themselves, and report that their interiority came into being
manifested through participation in the subculture. In light of this belief, the informants emphasized
the extent to which they felt different from their peers during adolescence. When she tells how she
became a punk, Kathleen, a 26-year-old graduate student, for example, said, “I don't know how
happened; I've always had this desire to be different... just to break the status quo."
Looking back at her life before she became an active participant in the subculture in more depth,
Eve, as a 24-year-old university graduate who worked in a library, told the following story:
… even as a kid I felt a little punk without knowing it. I was just different... me
I had no friends until I met a guy who was kind of like me... who just was
something rude, just without the nerdy aspect…
… Can you talk a little more about how you felt different from other people?
…I don't know, I've always felt like I was a bit separate from [other people]
somehow... I knew a lot more than people my age and had been through some
really really crap and I felt like everyone else was just living such stupid, sweet-
Although participants emphasized feeling different from their peers to varying degrees, the statement was
appeared in all his interviews. When asked why they felt different, the subjects said
have possessed values, interests and backgrounds different from their peers who
portrayed as superficial, unconscious and conformist. As a result, they claimed they didn't fit
in their school and community environment during adolescence. Offers a history that was
Quite similar to Evas, Glenn, a 24-year-old graduate student, said:
I think at the end of the day I was different from [people at my high school]. It does not matter
how much he would have tried to fit in with people who were popular and people who played
sports all the time, I think at most I would have just been a fraud and never done it
been accepted by these people. Maybe it could have been a shell and it could have shown
at those kinds of social events and stuff, but they would never have accepted me like that
they accepted people, they really considered themselves. So in the end I think that was it
It's really better to find my own identity through something like punk than just trying
hard and fail and be miserable.
Two additional stories recount some of the other reasons why the interviewees did not give them
fit in with your peers. Charlie, a 23-year-old ex-army conscript who works in a restaurant.
and is fully involved in the local DIY community, he claims it was a result of the culture
surprise you experienced when you moved to a new place. He describes having different values.
than his high school classmates and also states that he lacked the necessary funds for material
fit into them.
I grew up in Maine in a factory town...[but]...My dad got a job in Georgia so we moved to
[an affluent suburban county] to high school, and that's where the real seeds of anger
they were sown. It was a total cultural void. And that's where I started to develop ideas.
that I didn't associate myself with punk, but I already related to it without myself
knowledge. All my life I was kind of a wild kid, outdoors and then went to
suburbs and everything are named after trees, but there are no trees; they wanted to fire me
and he went out irresponsibly as a child... He was angry and it was
That kind of led to [becoming punk].
When he is asked about his experiences in high school, he continues:
High school was tough. No one was rich where I grew up, and then I moved to [the
southeastern suburb] where status came into play. It wasn't even a part of my mind before
I went there so I didn't fit in there. There was a lot of hostility towards me, and I
reacted with much more hostility then and it seemed like constant friction
the whole time I was there. It was a difficult time.
Greg, a 26-year-old university graduate, librarian and social activist, describes feeling distant from his
also colleagues, but for different reasons.
I was brought up to believe that it was fundamentally wrong to discriminate against people.
because of their race, because of their place of origin, because of their sexuality
guidance... very literal things my parents told me that I'm not sure most kids do
growing up in the 80's they were taught the…
Has the liberal upbringing you had compared to others ever caused anyone
tensions between you and other people growing up?
Yes, yes, definitely. I think there is an assumption that some people have...if
you appear to be a middle class white male then they will assume you are one too
misogynist, they will also assume you are racist, they will assume you are
homophobic. It's just an assumption that a lot of people have, you know, I always have
How did you disprove that? But always, from childhood to today, there have been boys and
They threw racist stupid things at me. I remember one time in high school, this boy that I
I thought it was cool...he came up to me and whispered something extremely racist into me
I listened to it and I said 'that's not right; it's not right'… there was this constant assumption
as a child, that you cannot be openly misogynistic or racist, but if you are
among whites, okay. And I think some of the best directions in punk music
Compared to his peers, Greg claimed to have possessed an alternative benchmark for ethics.
This, he says, made him feel different from others and reject their value system.
Later in their interviews, both Glenn and Greg stated that this sense of difference was motivating
allowing them to explore alternative sources of identity and interaction through the subculture.
Instead of expressing an outright rejection of peer culture, there are also many participants
claimed that their peers simply rejected them, undermining their abilities to develop
identities and sense of self-worth in it. Cooper, a 23-year-old college graduate and
restaurant manager, claimed to have suffered constant ridicule, "never fitting in". His
the narrative recounts the way he was ostracized by his high school friends, as he claims
it made him feel powerless and unhappy.
I had the world of suffering; They always teased me, I never fit in... and I remember this
live. I was in seventh grade on the school bus and I remember Jennifer Smith
make fun of me because the only radio station I listened to was [an oldie station],
which my mother always had [i]. He had no real identity. I was out there and one
total loser. Nothing made me different except that I was so different. I remember them
thing; I always do. I was completely powerless at that point in my life. the punk gave
a tool to change it, a way out, a brighter future... so I accepted it.
Lorie, a 27-year-old college graduate, restaurant worker and musician, offers a very similar experience.
I went to high school and the first year and a half of high school in Tennessee, and then
the rest in Georgia. I was a band nerd in Tennessee, but I had a lot of friends. I think my
The biggest problem back then was the boys. Guys didn't look at me and my whole woman that way
friends were already dating and having sex. Moving to Georgia was pretty awful. He
the school was bigger and richer and no one cared to have anything to do with me. Yo
I missed school a lot and walked around with a big chip on my shoulder. absolutely had
zero self-esteem. When I finally got a boyfriend, he pushed me away and I let him
he... I never liked fashion, makeup or anything that was considered feminine. my wife
my friends would force me down and do my makeup at sleepovers. they would say
how much more beautiful she would be if she only did such and such. I liked metal and
ska and some punk. Anything that became popular I didn't like anymore. I wouldn't like it
the same things that others liked.
And finally, Brian, a 24-year-old college graduate, social activist and service worker, still gives
another story that recounts the pain of social alienation during high school:
My life [before punk] was actually pretty miserable. I was kind of a punching bag
school and I didn't really have any friends except this kid who did
homeschooled, so he had no friends either. My whole life was basically one
trying to think of ways to avoid going to school, to avoid ridicule and go to
church... and playing computer games with that kid... I definitely remember the sixth
graded as one of the worst years of my life, and it was one of the last years before
I became involved, or interested, I should say, because there is a limited degree of
a 12- or 13-year-old can be involved, I suppose, at least in my case, with punk.
Like Cooper and Lorie, Brian claimed he was ridiculed and shunned by his schoolmates.
But later in his interview he also claimed to have lacked interest in the culture of
his peers, who he believed had prematurely embraced the sterile world of adults. As many
interviewed, Brian indicated that his identification as a punk began with a process of both
reject and be rejected by peers. Like other informants, which I will convey later on
role, into the punk subculture gave him social acceptance, as well as real and
symbolic space through which one can develop a positive self-concept.
In addition to feeling uncomfortable during adolescence, subjects also reported having
contrary to the authority to which they were subject in school, home and work.
The interviewees insisted that these institutions limited their capacity for self-expression and
ideological freedom in a meaningful way that governs their time and space and strives to condition
Your Values Blake, a 22-year-old college student, offered the following comment about his
high school experience:
I always felt like an outsider, especially in high school. I hated it; I hated 95% percent of it
the people there, I didn't like many teachers, I hated how it was structured and controlled
My life, I hated having to get up early every morning...it was just oppressive. primarily
however, I think it involved the other kids and how he saw them. I lived in a very place
affluent area where parents bought their kids $25,000 cars around the corner
16, all dressed fashionably, in outfits costing hundreds of dollars... All of them
he was rich and everyone acted rich: pretentious, bombastic, judgmental, unacceptable,
elitist etc I wasn't rich. My parents were divorced, my home, the big one
most of the time it was dysfunctional and i wasn't even from there originally... i was
different and people treated me accordingly.
While speaking of his struggle against others, which he based on their relative impoverishment,
dysfunctional home and alienation, Blake's narrative also expressed her outrage at the way in which
that the education system regulated his daily life, a regulation which he interpreted as
―oppressive.‖ Other interviewees also expressed great disdain for the socialization she and
other institutions tried to mediate during adolescence, referring to an apparently inherent
inability to internalize values without thinking and obey authority in their narratives. In contrast to
your peers who, in your opinion, agreed to this process without major reservations or resistance,
described subjects had a questioning and questioning attitude, an unwillingness to accept what was
others are offered as truth and a desire to discover it for oneself. They claimed to have felt it
they had always had this mindset which prepared them to immerse themselves in the punk subculture.
Henry, a 22-year-old man who works full-time, attends community college and plays locally.
punk band, described this feeling by reflecting on his experiences in the middle and high
school before starting punk rock.
You said you had "that attitude" before you got involved in punk; can you elaborate
in that bit?
Yeah... It would make the teachers say "you can't do this" and I'd say "why, why can't I do this?"
this?...basically any rule that didn't seem to apply to the safety of others or
yourself... There were certain teachers who had power struggles. they had been teachers
forever, and I guess they realized [the school] was their base, so they
kind of using his attraction to maybe make things a lot harder for people, then
I really wouldn't like that. I wanted to make a point to spoil them a little…
So you questioned authority figures instead of just obeying what you
were they asked to do?
Well. Everything with a rule: Every rule has a reason behind it, but some reasons don't.
good reasons, and I just wanted to distinguish what those good reasons were
and what were the bad reasons, because then I can decide which ones to follow, or
which ones not to follow or at least try not to follow... I wasn't really a rebel
things like "no one will tell me what to do", you know, someone has to tell you
what to do in the end... but it made me feel like I was my own person instead of being one
sculpted into something by other people because the things they told me not to do if I
I found out that there was actually a good reason behind it... I could eventually follow that
rule... I felt free and I felt that as long as I know what is right and learn it myself,
I really don't need anyone to tell me this is the way to do things…
you have to know for yourself what is right, not just because you were told it was.
Henry's story depicted a protagonist who wanted to come to his own conclusions instead
to allow a belief system to be forced upon you. He claimed to have reacted against
teachers' authority not because of an antisocial impulse but because by questioning
reasons for his rules, he was able to develop the ability to distinguish between those who were
arbitrary and those that were moral. This, he claimed, allowed him to formulate a personal code of
ethics to follow later in life. Similarly, Trevor, a 21-year-old high school student
candidate who has a full-time job and also plays in a local punk band, it offered
the following comment regarding his educational experiences:
I guess I started without really knowing what I wanted to do; I was curious, always
very curious i asked many questions in school...the teachers were always mad at me
I... I think it's a big stereotype that punks want to be political just because that's what they are
think it's… I'm sure there are some kids who follow it because of the trend, but I
I think kids who are political and really care about that kind of thing are
because they started by being curious and they don't want to just take things at face value.
was introduced; they want to ask more questions, go deeper, and punk just fits
So there isn't really a set of political ideas that are inherently a part
of punk? It is more a reflection of an attitude…
…yeah, I guess it's just wanting to ask questions. In general, there are many occasions when
come to the same conclusion, but you don't have to come to that conclusion. It is
why i like punk because you can come to whatever conclusion you want. that's what punk is
it's... well, it's individualism... [resistance to authority] it's like finding out who you are
you are and what are your morals. Instead of someone else telling you what your
morals should be, that's how you should feel about things, like you're pushing it a bit,
and you push it until you feel uncomfortable and then you pull back.
In his comment, Trevor saw himself as curious in a way that others were.
not during middle and high school. Like Henry, he claimed to resist the figures of
authority to "find out who it was". He claimed he was able to build his own
ethical system "pushes" rules and boundaries. Trevor believed in finding out what was
pious from what was ungodly through personal experience, by suffering emotions
guilt—was more significant than simply taking someone else's word for it. Both Henry and Trevor
the stories thus prioritize the value of emotions over rationality. They suggest that too
Knowledge and truth in general are achieved through a dialectical process of creation.
and denial, not passive acceptance.
Furthermore, the views espoused by Blake, Henry, and Trevor are about teacher authority
consistent with Turner's (1976) contention that the loci of self-concept change from
institutional framework for impulses. They and other respondents were dismissive of the institutions
rules within the school, as well as within other systems, such as suffocation and arbitrary rules
unworthy of your respect instead of respecting them as essential values. However this
The observation raises the question of why many, if not most, of the students continue to respect the teacher.
authority and choose not to regularly challenge the school's legitimacy as an institution. Because of
alienation that the interviewees described experiencing, it is possible that their low hierarchical level
attitudes within the school and other social systems made his antipathy towards such
particularly sharp institutional framework. In other words, respondents may have owned one
strong need or desire to anchor their self-perceptions in feelings and impulses, since the creation of a
positive self-concept within the available institutions proved particularly difficult and unlikely. This
The rationale is derived from Turner's logic, as it asserts that the real itself is revealed when one
he completely controls his behavior and abilities and achieves perfection when he roots it within
institutional framework - conditions that, given the respondents' stories, did not seem entirely possible.
Given his disgust at the suppression of educational, family, and work institutions,
and unable to cultivate a meaningful identity or explore their alternative ideas in
normative cultures in their schools and communities, informants said they began
seek outlets for socialization and self-expression elsewhere. your comment
suggested that they look for three things in doing so: social acceptance, like others who
could empathize with their unique experiences, and a social forum that was welcoming and
facilitated their alternative ways of thinking. It is at this point in his stories
interviewees claimed to have discovered punk music. Although several informants stated
that older siblings first exposed them to the family, many others claimed that it took place
random - for example, Trevor said he heard punk music for the first time at
snowboarding video game he played, originally referred to it as "snowboarding".
music.‖ The vast majority of those interviewed stated that they developed a
immediate and emphatic interest in punk, stating that his energy and sincerity took hold
them, and who could strongly identify with their tonal and lyrical qualities
contents. Many also claimed that it opened up new areas of critical thinking, according to
validating objections to the normative culture of their peers and teachers
environments they claimed to have. Ian, a 24-year-old university graduate, high school
math teacher and member of a local punk band, described this feeling in depth: ...the only one
The band I heard that absolutely drew me in was Minor Threat. When I
I listened to those recordings and heard about the Straight Edge philosophy, I thought, 'Oh,
that's all for me. I loved the idea of rebellion for rebellion. it's like we don't have
do all these things; you can still be a strong person. I mean, we'll still be alone
so strong, we will still be so strong, so passionate, but we will not do anything
one of these things that society holds dear, you know, that got me... it was about
the energy and the passion, and just… everything about, you know, being yourself and damn it
rest. You are your own independent person; If you're going to conquer the world, do it
the clearest state of mind: go for it, anyone can do it. You just have to be willing to
Fight for it... I never saw the point in smoking or drinking or, you know, promiscuous
sex, or any of the things that many of my friends had gotten into during high school
years... it never seemed like something I wanted to do. And I always felt that it did me
not just an outcast in the whole high school culture or high school environment, but he did
me an outcast with my friends because every time we hung out they drank and
smoking and I just wanted to be there... but then I heard it and... you know it was perfect... It was
was kind of what I was looking for because you know, during high school and
in high school you're always like 'what am I doing; I do it right; I'm going inside
The real liver?' And then I heard it, and I thought, 'Fuck, yes, I am; fuck everybody; Is
going in the right direction”…I was looking for something, it may seem stupid but I was
looked for some sign... And then they turned around and said, "no; you
you don't have to do that shit. You have to do what you want.' and I always have been
Ian's story highlights the profound effect that many interviewees claimed punk music had on him
carried on them. Subjects routinely declared that punk's energy, passion and lyrical weight
lent a helping hand to the problems they faced. In Ian's case, he said he listened to Minor
The threat caused an "epiphany" by giving him the strength he needed
be your own person and live by your own convictions in a social environment that opposes them.
Blake, an interviewee quoted above, made a connection between punk and his participation in
the high school debate team, which he held in high esteem at the time because of the social justice issues
on the way to:
As I listened to more punk, I came to really identify with it. The anger and the anguish and
the intensity appealed to me because that was more or less how I felt every day, when
entered the school. The letters also testify to this when I deciphered them. AND
Bad Religion, the first punk I really came to love and appreciate, took a degree
Also, because they sang about worldly conditions, righted global injustices, reacted
against totalitarian governments and many other issues that I researched, debated,
and believed in the debate team. My appreciation of punk music really started to develop.
Similarly, in another moving story, Henry claimed that punk appealed to him over other forms.
music for its sincerity, energy and, perhaps most importantly, because it worked
something he himself wanted to do and could create:
…let me think back to the first time I heard punk rock…I guess maybe I was listening like Green
Day and Offspring at first, just because it was available, I didn't know what it was
punk rock at the time and I guess whatever they did may or may not be
i called it so when i listened to those guys i had no internet so i didn't
I got some music, you know, let's see this band, but I finally started to be
could get money and I would go to used record stores and they would have that
punk rock compilations and all these bands I've never heard of and I just wanna say
'well...let's see what we have here.'...No one in my high school would listen
to those things and I really got into music because the songs were great. He
it was like something you and your friend could hang out and write like 20
minutes... and I felt like you might have met these people... they were just songs there
I could tell they were writing because they felt something, and they wrote it... so
I started to identify with that kind of music because the ideals behind it were
cool and they weren't simple but I felt like it was for me I could have written that song
and it was good. You'd hear songs about... oh, you know, I'm going out with
my friends and we are going to steal mail (laughs), you didn't hear about that in it
radio or nothing, so I started getting really involved in it.
In summary, the participants said that they could identify with punk music, that their passion
deeply galvanized them that they found it more real and sincere than other genres,
and that it became a vicarious system of social support that became more corporeal as
it became a real participation within the subculture.
After encountering punk music, the interviewees stated that they developed an emphatic interest in it
in the wider subculture that, as mentioned above, led them to actively participate in it. IN
At this point in their stories, the interviewees stated that they began to socialize with other punks, adopters
certain aspects of the punk style and regularly attends punk concerts. The informants highlighted that they
they had found a significant niche for themselves within their respective punk communities. All
confirmed that within them they felt accepted and also confirmed that the subculture allowed them
explore and act on nascent ideas in your possession. Like many of the passages quoted
outlined above, this new acceptance helped ease the alienation pangs of those who
they claimed to have suffered so far. Explaining why he began to identify as a punk, Tom,
for example, the following comment expanded:
…you get into punk because you can identify with the community…a community there
understand and have had similar experiences. It wasn't that my father was a drug addict.
a user or an alcoholic led me to be direct, that was acceptance. you know it wasn't
necessarily the compelling sound of punk that got me into it, it was kind of like
idea of acceptance It was like I could come here and be part of the community, that's right.
what I saw punk for most of my life... looking back, it seemed to me that - that
it was just this unity of really supportive individuals... you just idealize it... that was it
damn man, in high school.
Tom's story tells of how companionship and contact with other empaths became unique.
possible through subcultural participation. In another summary, Charlie gives an excellent
account of how participation in the subculture allowed him to explore different ideas, satisfy his
curious character, and delve into his personal ideological clarification project.
I joined the army when I was 17 years old and I was always going to hardcore and punk shows.
shows all the time and it was always a matter of music for me... I was always back and
forward about my ideology from here to here until I went to Baltimore... I was going there
what they call AIT, which is school and training for what will be your job in the army,
and he really wanted to see a show and he was very unhappy with the decision he had made,
and I went to this place called the copycat, which was a squat on the sixth floor that had electricity
and water and there was a show there and people came up to me
because I was a new face and they were very nice to me. and they were like
"What are you doing here?" and I was like 'I joined the army' and they were like 'oh
man you screwed up.' And they gave me a lot of really cool stuff... actually the first one
book... I got a free book from my friend Scott which was Hegemony or Survival which
it's a Noam Chompsky book... I felt like a freak and I felt bad being there alone
from being in the military and everyone was just trying to help and I think around
So... I was like... 'oh, I know... this is the first time I've felt comfortable in my own skin.'
And that was the first point where I felt like I was in the right frame of mind where people
They just let me do what I wanted, you know.
Is that what gave you that sense of belonging [in punk] that you felt
Well, I just felt...it wasn't...well, I hugged...and it was such an ambiguous communion,
the punk scene there, like any punk scene, had so many different facets... but just that
it seemed like everyone was there because... there was something gathered that was still
I haven't noticed... because... there are so many different ideas in punk rock... but
there's like... everybody rejects the same thing, you know what I mean? And I was
really...they gave me room to grow as a person; I didn't feel like it was indoctrination or
nothing at all. I felt it was... ‗you know something about this war; You
I know something about... anything.' It was really… well, I would say I felt embraced.
Charlie stated that punk appealed to him because it allowed him to "grow as a person".
many questions about the world and strove to develop a coherent view of the world. the punk, the one
he said, it served as a forum in which he could interact with others, ask questions and explore ideas
a non-hostile environment where the search for knowledge and meaning was active
motivated. Perhaps most prominently, he suggested that he give her a chance to fix her
he struggles with his choice to join the army, which he eventually left.
While every single punk I interviewed claimed to have gotten something deep
from their involvement in punk communities, most described a process of gradual change
withdrawal from active subcultural participation as they grew up. Thereby the informants do
stated that they continued to maintain their commitment to punk ideals, but to a great extent
they abandoned their concern for style, concerts, and the larger communities that were organized
around them. When asked about this, subjects tended to explain their decisions in one of two ways.
ways. First, many informants stated that they no longer needed the subculture for support.
system indicating that they had become comfortable and secure with their senses of self, and
that they had found answers to many of the questions that had been asked at the entrance
punk. In short, they claimed to have transcended their need to belong to a social category.
Dicky, a 23-year-old university graduate and computer engineer, had this to say as he spoke
why he no longer maintained a strong attachment to the subculture:
In general, the group of people I grew up with has also grown; has become
group of people that they also want to be. So it's a little different, I mean none
really stays in the same… the same way of thinking, except that most, like, for me, I consider it
weak to be a part of... to identify so closely with a social group at this age. You
You know, anytime after turning 18, why would you want to call yourself that?
except who are you? You know, you shouldn't be able to fit into a classification anymore.
The people who do that are just fucking fake.
Echoing Dickie's sentiments, Tom said:
I've definitely become less interested in normative punk, and I still emphasize this idea of
normative punk because it's like every time people call me punk it means so much
things... sometimes they call me and people say, Tom, you're not a punk anymore,
Well, if punk means sitting on the porch drinking 40 and staying up until three in the
I'm listening to Blatts tomorrow, well I guess I'm not a punk anymore. But it's not for me
longer punk. It still is for some people and I totally welcome them and if they want to
Go to the bar, it's great. If you want to play loud music at three in the morning,
It is fantastic. But I'm at a point in my life where I want to do Food Not
Bombs today is more punk than going to that show I missed Thursday night because
I had to get up at 8 and go to work. You know, I'm no less of a punk because I don't
Fuck the man, I stay up until three in the morning partying and watching this amazing
band. And I would have had a great time, but I guess I'm more focused on myself.
and me, personal things. I'd rather do that than be on stage, the normative punk scene…
And finally, Cooper offers a similar but somewhat nuanced version of this explanation, one of
My first interviewees, whom I had known since high school, said the following:
When I was a punk, I started to identify as a punk in relation to you and Sam and
Taylor. I mean, Taylor and I met at a show, and unless one of the three of you was at a show, I
I wouldn't be there... soon, the people I didn't even go to shows with or listen to music with
with or spoken to recognized me as a punk; it was kind of intuitive. I soon established
my own identity, and when I felt comfortable with that identity, that was all I needed
make sure I don't regret it. So I went to shows with you and Sam and I had that
some of the best and most memorable experiences of my life and I will not forget any of them.
you for that. Whenever I listen to bands now, I think about the moments we spent at shows. Yo
I don't really feel the need to move on, because I don't just feel like I have something to do
prove it but i don't think i'll ever get over the nights we were in crappy clubs
the heat and smoke from the clove cigarettes and it just existed. I am satisfied with myself
performances and while more shows would be icing on the cake if I never go again I still will
be so happy
In his story, Cooper described feeling like he had developed a sense of comfort with his car.
self-concept that was not present at the start. He stated that he initially participated in
subculture to define itself. Having arrived at that definition, he claims that he no longer
you have to wear punk gear like going to concerts; He is satisfied".
The interviewees also mentioned another reason for largely abandoning active subcultural activities.
participation as they grew up. Brian explained this reason in depth.
…I think at some point I discovered that [punk's] collection of symbols and aesthetics was
suffocating... What I found suffocating is that these various analyzes don't really do that
they develop beyond a lyrical level, they get stuck... my reason for falling from grace
with punk as a shared experience is that these critical analyzes are welcome but
doesn't really go beyond an introductory level... these aesthetic and politicized symbols
serve as currency for social interaction, and I think a side effect of that is that
become kind of crystallized, and that pattern can be discouraging to people
to take your analysis further or... these symbols whether they are bicycles or
dumpster diving or tofu2 they all have a political analysis in their origin but what i came up with
2 dump trucks, tofu and bicycles serve as highlights of the exhibition of style within the punk subculture. garbage man-
Diving and cycling reflect the subculture's rejection of mindless consumption and an embrace of DIY.
ethics of yourself The former also protests against corporate control of the food supply, while the latter tries to
promote environmental sustainability. Brian's reference to tofu refers to the high concentration of vegetarianism
What happened was that the symbol itself became a kind of fetish, and the repetition and
the circulation of these symbols would supersede the ongoing analysis. you would do it
you find yourself in a situation where people don't know what to say to each other
another so people will start talking about bikes and tofu and trash cans over and over
done, and what I feel is happening is that something like the scuba dump becomes itself
the fetish, and people will start pretending that something tastes better because it does
out of a container, otherwise people will start glorifying this small aspect of something that
it emerged from a broader critique of capitalism. But now the landfill has replaced
criticism of capitalism, so people will simply assume that dumpster diving is a sufficient substitute
for a critique of capitalism, as a fetish. And then you'll start hearing, 'yes, we do
dump diving; Let's go dumpster diving, but you stop listening to discussions about
capitalism. Or you'll hear some kind of lazy overture about how people are fighting capitalism.
rummaging in the trash, even if it's not really a sufficient way to fight capitalism.
Brian claimed to have moved into the subculture to explore alternative sets of ideas and
belief, which later became a strong criticism of society. He said that as he grew
older, with his investment in the subculture deepened, his criticism became more involved and
elaborate. Eventually, he argued, punk's cultural aesthetic began to suffocate
promote his ideas and stated that he had to filter them through cultural restrictions
forms, which limited the complexity they could develop. Brian stated that he felt
pressured to channel their political beliefs into lyrics, zines and other style displays. He
He also noted that such displays of style had become a fetish for him. You thought so, for example
many of punk's normative tools, such as cycling and dumpster diving, had
turned into empty wardrobe exhibitions, divorced from the original social and political criticism that
gave birth to them He felt that many in the subculture had come to value such acts in themselves.
themselves, without fully understanding the ideology they were supposed to represent and
Jerk. Ultimately, his comment suggests that the dilemma undermined his ability to
and veganism within punk. Punk's association with animal rights stems from the rise of Straight-Edge
movement within the subculture, which promoted a clean and somewhat ascetic lifestyle, in the early 1980s.
Since then, vegetarianism and veganism have spread more generally throughout the subculture as part of one
believe in living a life free from cruelty and exploitation.
advance both themselves and society and claim that the subculture limited political opposition to
harmless stylistic displays.
The “becoming punk” narrative that emerged from the interview data stands for
how the participants understand their identities and lives in the subculture. As such it provides
introspection into the subjective experience of participating in a subculture, the semiotics
CCCS academics' techniques and academics' prioritization of style in general have
historically silenced and flattened. How responsible are these narratives for the actual events that
moved the participants to subcultural participation is questionable, but also largely irrelevant to
purpose of investigating how the test subjects have constructed and justified their self-perceptions. Ewick and
Silbey suggests that storytelling involves a selective appropriation of past events and characters,
that relates them in a general way that usually involves contestation or struggle. While
informants offered different reasons and circumstances to account for the identities
the underlying structure of his narratives remained remarkably consistent. Subjects described a
innate sense of difference that led to a painful struggle for social alienation and
ridiculous. In their accounts, the informants resolved this struggle by entering the punk subculture,
which gave them social support and an ability to nurture and better understand their
David Kinney (1993; p. 22) in his study of socially marginalized high school "nerds" found
that such supportive peer groups are “the most important social arena in which young people develop a
healthy sense of identity as they experiment with different social roles and make decisions about
his present and future life." Like many scholars of adolescent development, he found out
young people who experienced poor self-concepts, lack of social interaction and
the stereotypes suffered from low self-esteem and negative self-evaluations. access a
But a similar group of supportive people eased their worries about popularity, one offered
alternative frame of reference in which to build their identities, and generated positive self-criticism.
feelings that resulted in a transformation into more competent social actors. the tale that
punks extended described a rather similar process. After developing social competence, which
emerged through the cultivation of a meaningful identity and an at least semi-coherent worldview,
most of the interviewees described the act of falling and a result: exiting the active subculture
effort. Subjects stated, in short, that they no longer needed to demand insider status from one
social category to invoke positive affect.
Taken together, the narrative that emerged is very much in line with Linda Andes (1998).
ethnographic work on punks, which argues that subcultural participation unfolds over three
stage career. Andes claims that his informants went through a process of development while
cultivate their identities, go through three stages, each marked by a change in their
reference groups. As with my findings, the punks in his study reported feeling differently
before he became punk. By entering the first stage of development, which she calls
"rebellion," they engaged in subversive acts directed at other normals, such as schoolmates
and parents who define themselves in opposition to them, like Henry and Trevor. Then in one
scene, which she calls "attachment," participants claimed to develop an attachment to other punks,
subsequently making them their most important reference group. In the end, however, they in his
study came to define punk as a system of values and beliefs concerned with
expressing an ideological commitment to the subculture, not stylistic or participatory.
Concluding with active participation, Andes argues that they became their own reference groups that act
discover their identities by making personal commitments to self-expression and anti-
authoritarianism. She referred to this final phase as "transcendence."
But while the narrative that came out of my data certainly supports the Andes theory
ethnographic work, it is important to note that his punk "career" model offers a largely emic approach.
consideration of subcultural participation. A more ethical explanation emerges when one considers how
participation in the subculture develops from a life course perspective. Seems to be
little coincidence that punk's social discord tended to arise at this very moment
when adolescence gave way to young adulthood for most subjects. Further
specifically, many respondents began to distance themselves from punk when they got out of the old
institutional frameworks and entered new ones of their own choosing, especially labor
and family. Entry into these new institutions appears to preclude active participation within
punk subculture and promotes it in other areas in two ways.
First, it limits taking on strict social obligations, commitments and expectations
time and resources that subjects have to cultivate important identities and roles within their
respective scenes. As a result, continue to participate fully in the subculture simply
it becomes impossible. Second, and perhaps more importantly, progress throughout the life course.
it may well transform the loci in which participants anchor their self-perceptions. Because of
discrepancies between the subjects' values and the values of their institutional environments under
adolescence, demonstrate the development of positive self-concepts that root their identities within them
be extremely difficult. But as they get older, subjects enter into new, more voluntary relationships.
institutions where they are most effective and can exercise most control over their
results within them. Consequently, anchoring their self-perceptions in institutions
framework will probably become more viable and more desirable.
Although I am not suggesting that subjects fundamentally reverse their self-loci as they grow
older, I guess maybe it will lead them to a better balance between the institution and
impulse, instead of basing them almost exclusively on the latter. Turner drawing
work, so a more robust explanation for why punks tend to withdraw from the active subculture
participation suggests that they begin to experience their personal realities in such a way that
calls for entering into institutional commitments rather than pursuing the satisfaction of inner drives
that facilitates participation in the social world of punk. So instead of assuming that
Subcultural participants go through an empty fashion in the teenage years as some
Scholars in subculture studies would propose or eventually renounce their alternative
values and identities and re-entering the dominant culture, as some functionalist researchers would suggest, I
argues that people retain their punk identities as they age but subjectively experience
them in a different way, that their "true self" manifests itself in varying ways throughout the course of life.
The stories the interviewees told also illustrated the punks' concern for authenticity. IN
Indeed, their narratives can be understood as vehicles through which they attempt to transmit
authenticity both for oneself and for others. Williams' (2005) ethnographic work on governance
youth: a derivative of the punk subculture oriented around leading a drug-free and relatively ascetic society.
lifestyle - revealed that the idea of an authentic identity generally has two dimensions -
socially and personally. The social dimension of authenticity refers to how individuals make claims
for insider status within a social category, while the personal dimension refers to how individuals
try to frame their subcultural involvement as part of a larger life project that is independent
of external influence. Establishing the personal dimension, he noted, involved articulating one
personal commitment to righteous values that preceded exposure to the subculture; identify
usually in response to peers, he was instead scorned as artificial. A concern with
this other dimension was quite evident in the narratives my subjects told. interviewees
insisted emphatically that they felt different from others and that they had alternative ideas,
at least in some form or another before they join the punk subculture. Thereby they formulated a
sense of personal authenticity: the notion that they were acting for themselves rather than
than playing roles. An excerpt from Dickie's narrative reiterates this point:
The [punk] music reflected how I felt about a lot of different things... and when
you see it for the first time, you fit into it... you found this music that reflects a part of
you who were not really seen before; so it was already there, it's just that this was the one
certain way where it was shown... there were many ideas in me that existed
before you have listened to punk music…
In the next section, I discuss my findings regarding punk ideology. will be
It is clear that the participants' narratives also attempt to convey social authenticity by invoking themselves
The ideological idiom of the subculture, which emphasizes resistance to social conventions and authority,
a commitment to self-actualization and homology between beliefs and behavior. In this way, which
Ewick and Silbey suggested that narrative is strategic, aimed at promoting interests and
goals for those who tell them.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE AUTHENTIC SELF THROUGH IDEOLOGY
This section attempts to report two problems in the existing literature on punk. First because
to the influence of CCCS scholarship, which used semiotic methodological techniques to analyze
subcultural style, very few empirical studies have attempted to investigate the meanings that
participants in the subculture adhere to their own behavior. This is certainly true of punk. Many
Scholars have interpreted the punk style to make claims about its subcultural ideology,
but to my knowledge none of them have made any extensive attempt to explore their belief system in
a form that gives agency to the subjects. As a result, what punks think and believe has, for the most part,
part, remained in the dark. Second, most studies of punk focus on style, regardless
how the participants subjectively construct and experience authenticity in ideological action
commitments Emphasizing style over ideology is problematic because it motivates
researchers, perhaps inadvertently, rely on ethical explanations of behavior to inform their
understanding of the concept. Therefore, we know little about how they within the subculture
really distinguish between "real" and "fake" members, how do they come to understand their own
behavior as "real" or why there is a concern for authenticity to begin with.
An example of these shortcomings can be found in the classic Fox play (1987) ―Real
Punks and Pretenders." Making a small attempt to understand the world of his research subjects,
dismisses punk ideology as "ambiguous at best" (p. 352) and defines commitment in terms of
to how the "hardcore" participants look and live, how many tattoos they wear and how many drugs
they basically do. When you impose a hierarchy on a local scene, label those that don't
they differ significantly from others through style such as "softcore" and "preppy".
does, she offers a compromise account that matches her criteria for authenticity, not that
of his subjects. If Fox had believed the testimony of "softcore" and "preppy" punks,
she may well have discovered that they defined authenticity differently than "hardcore punks";
they may even have seen so-called hardcore punks as less committed than themselves. Fox
the studio also misses the point by treating authenticity as a tangible entity. As mentioned in
In chapter three, it does not, in my opinion, serve as a useful ethical or sociological concept. With the purpose
avoid these problems, I engaged the informants in in-depth discussions about how
punk seen and defined. Postponing my own assessment of his apparent commitment,
considered his comment without regard to the extent to which they had adopted standards
subculture accessories. Therefore, I draw on emic data to explore the ideology that
advocated by punks and the strategies they employ to distinguish between "authentic"
and "fake" members.
Three facets of ideological commitment, all linked to an ideal of authentic
individuality, emerged from my interview data. I felt the first value that the informants showed
worry about "rejection". While other empirical works (Fox 1987; Baron 1989) have found that
Punks value resistance and largely reject the common sense world of mainstream culture, it
the nature of their resistance is still poorly understood. Fox, for example, throws punk
resistance as a component of the style that indicates that most of the participants in it lack
"conscience," suggesting that their opposition is rooted in a vague "anti-establishment,
anarchist feeling” (p.352). My interviewees, on the other hand, offered very analytical views.
responses regarding the nature of their social resistance. Expresses great discomfort towards
the idea of socialization, claimed to reject consumption in the broadest sense of the word,
with respect not only for goods, but also for knowledge and identity. for example when
asked Blake, a 21-year-old college student quoted in the above article, what punk meant to him.
section, gave the following testimony:
Punk... implies taking care of a questioning, skeptical attitude, resistance to social pressure and
norms, rejection of undue and sometimes even just authority... Essentially [implies]
live the life I want to live regardless of how others perceive and judge me...
For Blake, punk implies a rejection of social pressures oriented around the goal of "living".
the life you want to live.‖ He suggests that there is a great tension between the pressure from
social integration and the attraction of one's internal calling. The belief in this tension will remain
more clearly as I draw on more interview data where the informants discuss the meaning of
Elaborating further, Cooper argued that punks reject an “ideology of
accept." According to his commentary, this ideology refers to a system of social indoctrination that
individuals become entangled throughout their lives, limiting potentials
of the self and maintains existing power systems. The "system" Cooper accuses may be
as the collective effort of socialization agents in society: schools, media, family,
religion, government, etc. Informants claim that these agents maintain the charges
by those in power at the expense of everyone else, forcing people to give up their inner essences
to achieve fractions and illusory gains related to social approval. agents of
Socialization does this by inhibiting people from exploring their inner ideas and by maximizing theirs
life experiences, and works instead to promote a strict system of conformity that makes deviance
strictly punishable. The punks believe that this system, which aims to establish a
sanitized culture that contains privileged others undermines one's aesthetic potential in terms of
self-expression Hardly narcissistic, they assigned moral significance to both concepts of self-
expression and social limitation. In his own words, the very eloquent Cooper explained this
believe in depth:
Punk rock is not a type of music, punk rock is an idea. Simplify it as a style of
clothes, a set of chords or even as an attitude erodes the idea. The idea behind punk
rock is that social change comes from within. A lot of people see punks as non-
conformists and rebels, but this is also a simplification. punk rock is looking
break an ideology of acceptance.
What do you mean by an ideology of acceptance?
…As humans, we are socialized to believe that the truth we seek lies somewhere
hidden in pre-established paradigms… things you begin to learn from a child
that never goes away... Punk seeks... to change the individual mentality as a precursor to
types of ideas that cause change not because they are imposed on the population,
but because the population believes that the individually established ethics…
[it] doesn't even have to be a search to change anything. Punks have this bad rap
talk the talk, but never do anything constructive about it. What the punks do is
breaking the socialized link; socialization stops with them. Even if they don't write
your senators or start grassroots movements that are punk and I think that's something
so unique that I can find no other examples of this... punk is the process by which
humanity is trying to deconstruct the faulty paradigms that harm civilization. Punk
in itself will never change the world, but the effect of punk is the freedom of will that remains
unleashed on the post-punk generation. And yes, it definitely starts with
individual… it is the endless process that is the key…
Explains how punks are dedicated to tearing down an "ideology of acceptance", Cooper
emphasizes the importance of resisting socialization which harms civilization. he confirms
that punk as a movement is oriented around the goal of ending socialization, of deconstructing
the norms, beliefs and values that we have internalized to experience life in a cleaner way,
which will allow us to achieve happiness and satisfaction.
Because of their rejection of social conditioning, many interviewees also described having
an "I don't mind" attitude. When asked what exactly they meant by this,
The informants spoke of their concern for self-actualization and for undoing social influence on
to live meaningful lives. This breaks with the way most empirical work on punks
(e.g. Fox 1987; Baron 1989; Gaines 1998; Moore 2004) have framed their ambivalence towards
dominant culture. Many researchers suggest that such an attitude reflects dissatisfaction with
young people who have grown up in a mass media and consumer driven environment. The idea of
"I don't give a shit" is interpreted as a flawed attitude that results from boredom and
aimlessness of suburban youth who have been socialized to be consumers and spectators. IN
In other words, the feeling is explained as a product of postmodernism. But when
When asked to clarify their own statements and behavior, respondents gave a completely different opinion.
position statement. Tom, the 24-year-old musician quoted in the previous chapter, had
say the following about this mentality:
…you brought up this idea that you don't care, and a lot of people have said that
these words, what exactly do you mean by it and what is attractive about [it
When you say I don't care, it's like the existential crisis kicks in.
the table of how... how shall I go through life, make a living, sustain a
family, having a career, being educated, whatever that means these days, it's like having
all that bumped into your face and look at it and say I don't know what to do with
this, I can't do anything about this, I'm not emotionally equipped, I don't think any of us
is emotionally equipped to handle these kinds of situations, and I think that kind of
The real answer is that you really have to burn everything and start from scratch and
find out what life means to you. When I say that guy doesn't care, I mean it
That guy went out of his way and burned all those bridges and said I don't care.
I do everything by my own rules... that means you have to go your own way, you.
you don't care what the rest of the world cares about... it's like you have everything
these people are telling you to worry about these things to concentrate on
these things, you have to have a career in mind, you just have to do all these things,
and after a while you have a little record of them, like a little excess of them in yours
brain and you have to decompress them, you have to decompress them very slowly but like
Take out every one you get with the answer: I just don't care... here it is,
you are 24 years old Tom, you must have a stable career with health insurance and full benefits,
And I don't care... All these things that people would say
give a fulfilling life, I just couldn't see how it could be fulfilling, so I was like I didn't
I don't care about these things because I have to find what fills me up.
Tom in this passage does not display an indifferent attitude or a nihilistic orientation towards the world.
On the contrary, he claims that he "cares" about the value system of the normative culture,
because he sees little sense in it. Instead of succumbing to feelings of purposelessness
and lack of meaning, shows a commitment to finding fulfillment in life for oneself
expression, a perspective that is overtly modernist.
The Blake, Cooper and Tom commentary assumes a bitter antagonism rages on
between one's inner calling and the external social pressures that limit them, a similar struggle
to Freud's distinction between id and superego. This belief reveals that punks tend to anchor themselves
their self-perceptions to impulses opposed to the institutions in which they are involved.
The belief that one must do as one wants, regardless of the social consequences that are
celebrated in the aforementioned creed "I don't give a damn," suggests that feelings and actions
who are motivated by instincts rather than duties or expectations feel more real and meaningful towards
Participants. As Turner (1976) recounts in his scholarship on the nature of the real self, those who
work according to a modus operandi of the self as an impulse emphasizes the disregard of duties and inhibitions
to experience or achieve what Taylor (1991) and Boyle (2004) call authenticity.
As can be seen from the testimonies of the respondents above, this is because they see social rules and
rules as arbitrary and ungrateful. To put it another way, as mentioned in chapter three,
they perceive rules as stifling norms rather than as enabling values. Therefore, while those with a
institutional auto-locus attempts to cultivate and experience the "real self" according to
standards and stick to them even if they go against what you want and enjoy doing,
those with an impulsive auto-locus do the opposite by letting a compass of intuition guide them
In line with the rejection ideal, the interviewees also described a humanistic imperative
punk that involved overcoming various forms of inequality and inequality such as racism and
poverty. Cooper's commentary regarding the civil rights movement outlines this
bearing size. Punks' social justice concerns can be united under one umbrella
Anti-authoritarianism theme. Interestingly, my findings suggest that such beliefs do not come from
of a normatively conceptualized commitment to social justice. Rather study participants
seemed to prioritize his concern for self-expression over his commitment to struggle
injustice. Indeed, his commitment to self-expression as a moral ideal seemed to motivate his
concerns with social justice. In other words, the interviewees expressed the desire to topple
hierarchies and power structures because they felt that such phenomena undermined theirs
abilities to achieve self-actualization not necessarily because they were committed to justice and
equality as cultural ideals.
While they certainly saw both as important, and prejudice and exploitation as
disgusting, they seemed more concerned with finishing the sentencing process than
socialization as Cooper described. For example, later in your interview while discussing civil liability
rights, referred anecdotally to the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board, interprets his true
performance as the degree to which people's thinking changed, not their actual results
about racial difference. Humanism thus serves as a tool for achieving self-actualization:
to cancel out social influence and create one's own meaning in life. This does not mean
Belief in the dignity and worth of all people naturally did not motivate the informants.
rejection of inequality and inequality to some extent. But it suggests the rejection that I
have identified as the first facet of punk ideology primarily involves recognizing that a
The hegemonic socialization process takes place in society. Punks see this process as oppressive and
suffocation and they actively strive to overcome it.
Finally, at this point, contrary to accounts like Fox's, the punks don't seem to be taking one
attitude that inherently and automatically rejects all forms of authority and establishment. While
regularly showing disdain for both, their position is best described as opposition to the idea
internalize and mindlessly obey the rules and beliefs that established institutions and
promote authority figures. In the previous section, the comment that Trevor and Henry
offered about their experiences at school testify to this feeling. recognize both
which particular aspects of education are important. As opposed to denying education, the hierarchy
and authority overtly, they simply express aversion to the idea of allowing
school as an institution to carve them into certain types of people who have particular beliefs.
Holly, a 23-year-old high school graduate and service worker, also shares this idea:
…I got very good grades throughout school, but I never seemed to care. Is
not like it was anything important to me.
I don't know...it just doesn't seem like a necessity. Education is important, but
educate yourself individually and read and research your own type of giveaways
in much more than trying to appease this specific direction that you are being taught
and this mindset that you have to stick with instead of learning on your own
and discover their own views on life.
With a very similar point of view, Bobby, a 21-year-old high school graduate who plays in a punk club
band and working a work job, said:
… I think [punk] just wants to ask questions. Usually there are many times when
come to the same conclusion, but you don't have to come to that conclusion. It is
why i like punk because you can come to whatever conclusion you want. that's what punk is
It's... well, it's individualism.
Eve finally suggests that while punk often entails resistance to agents who strive to impose
ideology and culture to people, does not translate into an inherent rejection of the established.
institutions as a whole. For her, punk rather means committing to break free from
outside influence so that she can formulate her own views:
…took me a few years and a few serious mistakes to realize it's not a punk
it must mean fuck this, you know, fuck fill in the blank. It doesn't just have to mean
to reject everything just because it might seem conforming to someone else.
...moving on from there, what has it come to mean for you as you have clarified
your thoughts on that?
It basically means… well, it definitely means that instead of just taking that knee
idiotic rejection reaction to things to really actively think about them and create
my own point of view, because, I don't know, as far as e.g. Christianity, I still
Most of my friends are not Christians and they don't see why I am.
But I still am, I have managed to incorporate it into my life and keep my faith.
system without... I don't know... without interfering with my ability to think. Like me
Don't use it to shoot, you know, the problems that I have or that I see in the world.
And I also don't think there's anything inherently wrong with, you know, e.g
academy for example. I mean... it's not... it's stupid that I ever thought that...
He cites his struggle to reconcile his punk identity with his Christian faith and his desire to
pursue an academic career, Eve says she's realized she doesn't need to
rejecting conventional institutions and systems of meaning to be punk. can still be assessed
and participate in them, but as a punk he agrees to do it on his own
conditions, choosing to embrace Christianity based on a personal will, not
pressure, and to choose academia as a career because it feels right to her, not because others
define it as valuable or safe. Others outside the subculture, she suggests, make such
choosing for the wrong reasons, succumbing to social pressure instead of allowing their hearts
guide them. Eva's comment, as well as Holly's and Bob's, is again indicative of an impulsive attitude.
locus of self, suggesting that while the drive reigns as to how punks appeal
their self-perceptions remain institutional framework relevant when participants see the rules
and the norms in them as values. Concretely, it appears that institutional norms are
subjectively transformed into values by the emotions that inspire acts of resistance and rejection.
Following his commitment to rejecting social influence and socialization,
The informants also demonstrated a dedication to leading lifestyles that were responsible for theirs
perceived as genuine, a value I have considered "reflexivity". Reflexivity was by far the one
most recurring and broad theme discovered during the study. The subjects commit themselves to it by preaching
their belief systems realized subjectively through everyday practice. draw a sharp
distinction between "being" and "doing", punks expressed great contempt for people who in their
points of view, they engage in contrived acting to gain social recognition. To put it another way,
the informants were of the opinion that all actions must follow from intrinsic and not instrumental
motivations (or, to use Turner's term, impulsive rather than institutional motivations). While
insisting that they could distinguish between people who were themselves and those who were
But they were simply playing roles for instrumental purposes, how exactly did they do that?
it was still something intangible. Although the informants could not identify specific qualities that
worn by people of the previous group, believed that the authentic individuals possessed one
nonchalant and confident attitude, a statement that reflects the way jazz musicians
distinguished between modern and square individuals in the ethnographic work done by Becker (1963).
In his studio, to be fashionable meant to possess a mystical attitude that could not be achieved through
education and contempt for conventional norms, where being square meant the opposite (Thornton
1997). When asked how he distinguished between authentic and inauthentic punks, Dickie said, for
for example said the following:
…it just shows, it shows when people just don't care when they try and
I think people who try to be something should stop trying and just be.
whoever they are. And people who are just who they are, maybe that's one
confidence in the way you present yourself to people. I certainly don't think so
I'm trying to do anything with my haircut right now [a coat of arms] and every person
me talking to whoever sees it is like 'oh'. You know, they're not like 'oh wow! It is
crazy - absurd! You know, they're kind of like 'yeah.' You know, like, it's new to
me, but then they say 'yes, it looks good'. You know it suits me.
Dickie's comment reflects the mysterious qualities of professional jazz musicians
attribute to each other. In another part of his interview, he criticized the people who adorned
in the normative punk style, whereas at the time of the interview she wore her own hair in a bun.
Mohican But he emphasized that he did not pose or make poses, that his hairstyle,
unlike some others, it reflected his real, internalized self. Your friends and others in
the subculture, he argued, could easily recognize this. However, my own observations revealed
little or nothing in the way of concrete qualities of attitude or behavior that distinguished them
called "authentic" punks from "inauthentic". Rather, participants seemed to attribute a
show coldness towards their own behavior and the behavior of their friends while disapproving
outsiders as conceived in an uncritical way that possessed no coherence or logic. You others
words, during the course of my investigation there was nothing tangible that differentiated Dickie's behavior or
stylistic representation regarding, for example, his mohawk, which he suited
Dickie's comment, however, provides insight into punk's feelings versus style.
All the subjects express in one way or another that they must objectify their own image. This is
achieved in two ways. The first is through positive internal speculation, which involves
use a style that reflects one's unique and genuine being. The second aspect is negative.
disidentification, which visibly shows contempt for the things that punks oppose
collective rebellion. Because of their concern for reflexivity, the informants expressed extreme dissatisfaction
for people who used styles that were considered incompatible with their self-concepts. TO
continues to use Dickie as an example, during a punk show he meets two teenagers who i
from his point of view they displayed images to appear punk, while to him they lacked ideological elements
authenticity. He reacted very negatively and boldly condemned them. his reaction was
engendered by revulsion at their perceived attempts to project images of subcultural belonging
which he suspected did not reflect his true identity. Teenagers, he said, symbolized
high school culture that he deeply loathed because his fashionable clothes represented
Materialism and superficiality. I documented this altercation in my field notes:
...the girls turn around again and try to say something to Dickie [they had summoned
his attention several times before for no particular reason, probably because he was standing
very close to them]. Before his thoughts are over, Dickie removes one of his earplugs.
and ask how old they are. They inform him that they are 16 years old and ask him why he wants to know.
Before you answer, ask if they have high school the next day. They nod. - Because I believe
you're fucking retarded," then reply. He proceeds to punish them directly without any pretense
in any way. He tells them to "shut up" and move to the back.
of the place because "nobody cares that they're there," which reminds him of the girls
from their high school and that they "act like a bunch of fucking 12-year-olds." looking broken
they tilt their heads as he lunges at them, not seeming to know how to react. Finally as
Dickie's assault ends, the pink woman replies that she hopes he
he hurts himself in the hole. Dickie looks stunned and horrified. He pauses for a moment before saying
"yeah .... you know, me too", putting the ear piece back on... After this I realized that women
he moved further to our right and sought refuge with the Spanish-speaking boy from earlier. the three of
they began to make fun of Dickie. I could only make out random comments, but the gist of it
the conversation involved how Dickie considered himself "hardcore punk rock" which
seemed to have interpreted it negatively, in the sense of seriousness, rigidity, degree of difficulty and possibly
evilness. The Spanish-speaking guy stood up, looked at Dickie and said, "I'm a punk."
rock” in a mocking way. Fortunately, Dickie only seemed to pick this up from the corner
his eye, but nevertheless he understood that he was being mocked. Dickie continued to
he stares at the guy showing a disbelieving and angry look of intimidation. the boy turns around
to avoid eye contact, realizing he's caught Dickie's attention. continues dickie
Look at him, though he is turned away: the disgusted look remains unwavering. More
Moments later, he looks back to see that Dickie's eyes are locked on him like a guided missile.
He looks scared and turns away without turning back. Dickie keeps looking at him
yet another minute or two. Finally, he realizes that he has gained psychological control
battle, he redirects his gaze to the stage…
A few days later I asked Dickie in an interview why he had reacted against the young women in the
the way he did it, as well as a few other people on the show that he had apparently been with as well
problem taken. Answered:
I just decided they suck: snap judgement. Like, I heard them talk, I saw their trash,
cosmetic haircuts and wanted to kick their ass. I mean, it's the same set of ideas: punks
they are not clean, they do not comb their hair as they used to. they are bloody disgusting
and dirty. They wanted to be something they weren't. They obviously came from, like, [a
prosperous suburb] and they went to some store in Little Five Points to buy their clothes
they look punk, they spent hundreds of dollars on clothes and hair products, and they think they are
punks, that's complete bullshit. You know, that's not true at all, they just are
consumers, which to me is the worst classification. Yes...they are just a product of
consumer society... even when I send the hawk, the other where it turns into anything
where I have to comb it, I just shave it, send the room monkey later. There
it's no use... it's no use having to get up and comb your hair. what the hell -
it's damn weird.
Two things are noteworthy about this sweating tendency and Dickie's subsequent explanation.
First, Dickie wrote that the teenagers in the parade were illegitimate because he thought they
"They tried to be something they weren't." For him, punk did not reflect his true personality.
Rather, he believed that they depended on stylistic accessories to fit into a social society.
category. In short, I suspected they had assumed, not created, their punk identities
to look cool. Second, although I did not have the opportunity to speak with the two young men
women he ridiculed, their responses suggested a similar dedication to reflexivity. After
Dickie mocked them, both the women and his friends mocked him for trying to throw
himself as a "hardcore punk". In other words, they also accused Dickie of acting, of trying to
creating a particular perception of themselves that was inconsistent with who they thought they really were.
This particular incident therefore emphasizes the point that authenticity has no
properties. It's not something that some people either have or don't have. Rather, the participants
build it and negotiate it with respect for an ideological system that values rejection, reflexivity
A final remark regarding styling is also in order. Explains what drew them to punk
music unlike other genres, almost all interviewees referred to the human qualities of punk
Music and punk shows. This is directly related to the ideal of reflexivity which emphasizes
sincerity and reality over artifice and performance. Henry, Bobby, Ian and Charlie spoke up
long on the allure of attending local shows with local bands, degrading
commercial bands on tour for various reasons. They claimed the music worked too
produced and influenced, which makes it difficult to empathize and identify. Not being able to
think playing it they rejected commercial music as instrumentally driven and
inauthentic This is also consistent with an impulsive ego locus, which Turner (1976) argues that
in terms of performance such individuals find technical perfection repulsive and instead
admire the music and art that show the human frailties of the artists. Those who root themselves-
performances in institutions, on the other hand, experience and express their "real self" through
infallibility. Similarly, informants expressed disdain for the way popular gangs
they grew up and built themselves up as supermen. Charlie especially said he was
was routinely offended when people treated him like a rock star after playing shows with his
local band. It was important that the subjects, on the contrary, could relate to the musicians
which they listened to as human beings.
This also applied to the exhibitions. The big rock concerts, the interviewees claimed, were
impersonal. Charlie said he played most of his shows and saw most of the shows with his
friends, which made it much easier to relate to music that I knew about from personal experience
what was sung I remember one of the first Rolling Stones concerts that he attended with his father,
Ian stated that between the large amount of participants present and the physical distance
between him and the band he felt faceless and alienated. But when you go to punk shows,
claimed that he could see the band members up close, along with all their imperfections
and human qualities—and he also knew they could see it. He said this did
more real and powerful experience for him. This sentiment was especially true for the participants
who regularly participated in local DIY shows. Describe the experience of serving them, Tom
said the following:
By going to a DIY show, you are a participant from the start, from the moment you enter.
through that door you are expected to respond to all stimuli. You cannot expect to become one
passive observer at a punk concert: the band won't let you. they must drive
puts you in the grave or makes you dance... you go to a show and sing
very loud because it's the same song that played on your front porch last time.
evening. She wasn't acting when she did it, but she wasn't performing then, was she?
is she really acting now? And then you start thinking about it, and they all are
to do is to share these beautiful songs that we have written together or shared by some
importance within this small group of friends. And it's a bit like DIY and punk.
has come to mean to me. It's like you're actively involved and everyone there wants to be
attend, and that's what makes it different from going to a bar show. go to a house
show, you must want to be there, because that house has no heat, the kitchen is
probably dirty, the bathroom probably won't work and your beer will be stolen,
And when you don't put the five bucks in a donation because you're broke,
someone will give you a hard time about it, but you don't care, you're fine
with him, because that is the form of artistic expression that we have built, and that is how it is
we live it and that's how we interact with it.
Tom understreger den aktive karakter af DIY-punkshows i forhold til store koncerter. i modsætning
as a passive observer participating in pure consumption, the punk shows obligatory participation,
forcing people to participate in the construction of the global experience. DIY cultural production
it also allows punks to constitute their experiences as real. Tom claimed that because he
personally knows the people who appear in such shows, he has no doubts about theirs
reasons and claim that they are truly expressing themselves and not acting artificially. Corresponding
He claimed to know that other assistants are also real given the strictures the premises are under
which DIY shows are held. Such comments indicate the degree to which punks feel as if
they have little control over what is real versus what is fake or just for sale, and
how the DIY ethic allows them to overcome these feelings in a big way.
To continue in this direction, given their valuing of being versus doing, the punks i
The study strongly rejected the idea of "assumed identities" which essentially take shape
estate. They are not original, they are built by others and therefore not personally reflective.
Instead, the informants argued that the sense of self should arise organically through a process
active and personal creation. When asked how he separated insiders from outsiders i
local DIY scene, Charlie, for example, categorized posers as:
… people who just don't start new ideas, they don't try to create, you can see that.
If there is a lot of worship, if they treat these new bands as rock
stars, it's like you don't understand the point of this; that's exactly what we are
Charlie claims that real punks can be distinguished from unreal ones by the extent to which they
they create versus consume. He defines those who try to develop new ideas and build
the community as authentic, while those who simply consume and fetishize their products, such as
his band, they miss the point and the point of the subculture in their opinion.
Other empirical work on punk has attributed this sentiment, which typically manifests in
an acute rejection of consumerism and materialism, of a political resistance project based on
in an anti-capitalist mood. Moore (2007) argues that the spirit of DIY allows for a public sphere
among young people to develop, where they organize and express their dissidence
views on critical societal issues. Although several interviewees expressed their disagreement with
capitalism as an economic system and certainly used the subculture to cultivate symbolic space
where to challenge the dominant ideology my findings suggest that the ideas of rejection and
reflexivity is based much more on a commitment to authenticity as a cultural ideal and to
cultivating and propagating a self-concept rooted in impulse rather than political disagreement. when discussing
the value and importance of bricolage as a cultural ethos, informants tended to claim that it allowed them to
separating the real from the fake and creating their own identities instead of buying
ones that were manufactured for mass culture that didn't feel "true" to them. They too
suggested that it facilitated their abilities to live up to their ideals rather than engage in one
lifestyle that was incompatible with their ideologies. While many also praised DIY as a means
to subvert consumer capitalism, and it was clearly secondary to self-expression
and authenticity more broadly.
Sarah, a 23-year-old writer and barista with a few college credits, said, for example
that the DIY ethos contributed to his self-realization project. She claimed that DIY
community allowed people to define themselves in an ideal way without being dependent on
conventional outlets for validation, as barriers often prevent people from
construction of desirable identities. Identified herself as a writer and lived with various artists, she noted
that it was very difficult for most people to have a successful existence like any of them. in American
society, this is problematic, as we generally define ourselves, to a large extent, through our
jobs, the general lifestyle choices we make, and the larger institutions we are a part of
(Rubin 1994; Turner 1976). However, DIY allows people to bypass social validation when
trying to build favorable self-concepts. If one lacks the connections or the talent required in
Publishing a book serves as a coping mechanism for participating in a DIY community
Allows participants to anchor their self-perceptions in alternative institutions or in an alternative
place completely. Sarah, for example, ran a monthly magazine that featured her poetry and
Given his popularity both inside and outside the local community, he said so
Publishing her work allowed her to feel like a true writer, not just a barista. an innovator
adaptation to the social problem of self-definition in a world of limited opportunities, bricolage
The ethos thus allows individuals to bypass the exits that people conventionally accept
Bourdieu (1993) discusses this idea in his theory of “fields of cultural production”.
field refers to a network of social relations organized around a particular practice, i.e
largely independent of the larger social structure. Two types of logic govern culture.
production: "heteronymous", whereby commercial sales and honors awarded by
authorities confer legitimacy, and "autonomous," whereby legitimacy is conferred by a
circle of fellow artists, writers or critics who recognize eminence. He claims that the two fields
or logics are in constant competition with each other. For Sarah and other DIY communities
establish an independent area of cultural production which “enables people to become
participants and performers rather than just consumers and spectators, regardless of ability,
experience or commercial viability, enabling people with poor communication skills to speak
their minds…” (Moore 2007; p.448).
In general, the tenant of reflexivity emphasizes that individuals develop and respect their
own system of beliefs and values. While the subjects expressed feelings of disgust and frustration
for a number of issues related to inequality and social injustice, as mentioned above, seemed
have the greatest contempt for an abysmal ignorance and apathy which they felt bleeding
through society. My findings suggest that punks tend to think that people in the mainstream
they take for granted almost all the norms, values and beliefs into which they have been socialized—
never question its purpose or validity. When asked why he was drawn to the spirit of DIY, for
For example, Glenn reported the following thoughts:
…as Americans we are fed so much garbage whether it is from our families or from ours
church, or our schools, and the media, of course, good Lord. It is not very frequent,
even for young people now who really wonder why we live this way, why we are
in the position that we're in globally, so I think it's really important for people
questions the methods we use around the world, things like that, and I think for a long time
guys when you get into punk is when you really start questioning those things and
really challenging themselves, challenging their beliefs... I mean getting out of the way
read a Howard Zinn book or push yourself to read Noam Chompsky or
something, and maybe read an alternative history or alternative view of religion there
we are not necessarily force-fed by school or religion or anything like that. AND
Definitely, once you get into punk, those things start to happen, you surround yourself with people who
challenges your beliefs and it challenges you to look at things more thoroughly…
While he feels that the implication of such susceptibility to groupthink and
foolishness is dangerous, punks seem to see the resulting waste of human potential
of such passivity as much more, if not least, disturbing. Thus almost all the subjects
suggested that punk ideology does not assume an inherent form. Rather, it simply involves reformulating one
informed individuality. But many noted that punks are often aligned with leftists.
beliefs. However, subcultural participants are recognized as authentic when they draw theirs
own conclusions about life and stick to them, not when they adopt prefabricated views.
What those conclusions are doesn't seem to matter as long as people "do their own thing", which
the following passage, taken from Henry's interview, is proof.
…it's kind of an oxymoron, being punk rock and following the rules, there are no rules!
...you do things on your own terms...there are some punk rockers in bands and they are
Republicans, they do their thing, you know. You know, you might not agree
with them at whatever level, but they do their thing and they don't
following a pattern, that sort of thing. I know punk rockers who are Christians, you
You know, there are no rules for this sort of thing... You do your own thing on your own terms.
because of their own beliefs. And that's what punk rock is to me...
In support of this view, Ian expressed the following thoughts when discussing what punk meant to him:
him, and whether or not it involved a particular set of beliefs:
What does it mean to be punk? I know it sounds cliché, but really it just means being
yourself and not settle for what people would expect from you, but with what
you would expect from yourself. My parents always expected me to be a doctor or
something like that and it wasn't my thing. Although they always tell you to make an effort
the best you can and stuff like that, I did the best I could. But it wasn't me
sought. What I wanted, what I really wanted, was to be a teacher and go along
to. And even though everyone tells you, you know, teachers don't get paid much, they
I don't do much, it's not really a profession to be admired, I thought, 'well, damn
That's what I want to do, that's where I think I'll find myself, and that's what I want to do.
Does it even matter what you want to do?
No. As long as you are true to yourself, as long as you feel good doing it, you must
keep doing it. I mean, of course, there's always the moral problem with that as well
illegal drugs or crime or all that, but really punk is the idea that you do what you want
I want to do. I will add to that, just for the straight edge on me, do what you will
we want to do for the best of the world. I mean, I would add that to it, but really in
the sense of punk and the ideas of why it started and stuff, it's just 'I gotta do what I wanna do'.
want to do' and that's it.
Both Henry and Ian argue that punk does not imply a specific set of beliefs, values or practices.
Instead, the punk ideology is simply that individuals should stay true to themselves and live their lives
live accordingly. Interviewees also stated that reflexivity, when achieved subjectively, entails
a sense of efficiency. Blake referred to his immersion in punk as "self-actualization" and Cooper
reported that when he discovered punk, he felt empowered and ultimately connected to a culture
that reflected what Trevor defined a punk as someone who "stays true no matter what" and
then he discussed the importance of being aware of such a mindset had created in his life.
Kathleen eventually said that "I think I felt empowered to be someone who was a little bit
different because they were all a bit generic and boring. Empowerment stems from
the emancipation that entails the rejection of the dominant social conditioning. Strive to understand your own
be real and be accountable to him, instead of following society's norms.
recipes, bring meaning and understanding to the lives of punks. This reflects the change
which Turner (1976) believes spreads through post-industrial societies then
attitudes, feelings and desires replace much of the meaning and positive affect that sustains
particular positions within social systems once they are created.
A final facet of the ideological commitment that emerged in my research is considered "self-
updating". This strand of ideology implies a moral commitment to self-discovery and is
closely associated with both the ideals of resistance and reflexivity. Actually while I have inserted
extracts from the interviewees' comments at specific points throughout the document to
emphasize particular points, these ideological values become very confused. Each one more or
less, can be found in all the statements I have offered. Punks hunt and subjective
achieve self-actualization through positive internal speculation and negative disidentification. He
The ultimate goal is to develop a self-concept outside of social influence. Cooper, in the next
passage, explains this dimension of punk ideology:
…Ideas of truth are really important. Punks are always looking for the truth, but they still have to
finding that truth in these power relations... the truth that punks seek is derivative truth
from within... a truth that creates real change. It is what we as [individuals] learn
through experience... [punk] is a utopia that can be open to everyone, a kind of paradise that
Everyone can achieve if they just participate in the process, the process has no limits,
it is only the eternal quest to find the truth, the objective truth in itself, even if that truth
contradicts another's truth.
Again in line with Turner's (1976) portrayal of an impulsive locus of the self, Cooper et al.
respondents believed that one should discover their true self through deep introspection
rather than reaching or achieving it through the fulfillment of social roles. like resistance and
reflexivity, suggests the self-actualizing tenant that punks have built and negotiated
an ideological system according to the way they experience their personal realities.
For them, some feelings and actions seem to feel more real and meaningful than others:
impulse rather than obligation, internal rather than external, and so on.
The subculture's ideological tenants also reflect the conceptual portrait of the authentic
ideal that Taylor (1991) discusses in The Ethics of Authenticity.3 Tracing the origins of this ideal
and given how it has been represented in society, he argues that authenticity implies:
creation and construction, originality and resistance to society's rules. it could
I essentially replace my terms—resistance, reflexivity, and self-actualization—with Taylor's.
the vernacular clearly shows the extent to which the punk ideology reflects the ethos of authenticity
present in the wider social environment. As discussed in Chapter Three, it appears that
3 Taylor's work on authenticity explores the origins of individualism and the drive for authentic identity in many
contemporary society. Much of his work is dedicated to criticizing and rethinking the notion that individualism undermines traditional values, social obligations and community bonds. At the center of his argument is the concept
that since self-concepts are formed dialogically, the achievement of "authenticity" requires great social engagement
in opposition to a radical push inward. In his view, the cultural ideal of authenticity arose with intellectual work.
by romantic philosophers such as Rousseau and Herder.
The emergence of authenticity as a cultural ideal, as Taylor (1991) argues, is due at least i
part of the spread of romantic aesthetics. From my point of view, the rising trend is among
actors to anchor their self-perceptions in deeply felt drives rather than institutional institutions.
framework, a trend that seems to hold for both subcultural participants and those
who primarily participate in "mainstream" culture, reflect the prominence of the ideal. But if
we think of self-perceptions as residing on a continuum that possesses both an impulsive and a
institutional pole, it seems that the punks in my study anchored their identities much more closely
before those more firmly caught up in "mainstream" culture, which leads them to
perhaps repeating the cultural ideal of authenticity in a distorted and amplified form.
That punk ideology is not necessarily about social justice, but instead rejects it
authoritarianism because of its interference with the pursuit of self-expression and self-actualization,
it reflects the culture of authenticity that Taylor writes about in other ways as well. Taylor
argues that the philosophies of moral subjectivism and liberal neutrality characterize our present
cultural orientations. These expressions mean that people believe that they should not interfere
the attempts of others to live life as they see fit and that social institutions must remain neutral
on questions about what is "the good life". This is consistent with an increasingly common
metaphysical orientation in society that sees reality as variable and solipsistic rather than
constant and shared across institutional frameworks. In another sense, then, the ideal of
authenticity that circulated through romantic philosophies and then spread throughout
Society seems to have influenced the ideology of punk, as participants were reluctant to make a firm choice.
moral or ethical position to any concrete ideological position. Instead of doing that, the punks, as mentioned
above, hold that one is authentic and moral as long as he follows his rules
own production. These parallels and my findings regarding ideology in general support
proposition developed in my "becoming punk" chapter, which suggests that the subculture
perhaps it represents an innovation rather than a rebellion of adaptation to social problems.
By highlighting the continuity between punk culture and "mainstream" culture,
However, I do not mean to suggest an epidemiological model of the subculture. In other words, I
I do not wish to suggest that the Romantic intellectuals transferred "authenticity" as a concept or
value to lower-order social actors who subsequently internalized it. To do so would possess
little internal validity since other philosophical currents that emphasize progress and
rationality moved through society at the same time as the romantic, driving, for example, the
industrial revolution. Rather, I theorize that the ideal of authenticity arose and continues
they arise in common among intellectuals and myriads of others in post-industrial societies. Yo
they see it as shared by "dominant" and "subcultural" actors that manifest in different ways,
and find expression in several channels for different people. In contrast to its coexistence with
other ideational paradigms, but based on the evidence presented in chapter three, I think so
continues to develop great prominence within advanced industrial societies, particularly among
postmaterialist middle class.
Although exactly why authenticity has become important to so many people remains unclear.
Beyond the scope of this study, there is much room for speculation. Considering my review of
relevant literature, I postulate that changes in the nature of social integration in mass societies, due
mainly to the shift from production to consumer-oriented economies - has declined
the interdependence between people and the set of shared experiences they can draw from
they pull to jointly construct reality, destabilize their senses of what is real and thus push
to look elsewhere for truth and meaning (Turner 1976). I also suspect that the development
in late modernity/postmodernity has exacerbated this fragmentation of reality by
to saturate people, inundating them with endless possibilities for creating identities (Gergen 1991),
and essentially commoditize everything that exists, leading to the "radical reflexivity" discussed.
in my review of the literature on authenticity (Allan 1998). Such developments seem to have
profoundly changed the way people experience their personal realities and enlivened them
prioritizing the value of feelings and impulses over cognitions and institutions. - Authenticity,
then perhaps it arose as a desirable, or perhaps even necessary, cultural value that works
stabilize reality and refocus individual self-perceptions. In later chapters I will develop
why it appears to be exceptionally desirable, or again, perhaps even necessary, to those who
decided to join the punk subculture.
A final point regarding punk ideology deserves to be addressed. After giving an outline
Based on the construction of authenticity that emerged from the survey respondents, one question remains
with regard to whether people participating in other groups define and intend
they achieve subjective authenticity differently than punks do. The question has two answers.
First, I suggest that Taylor's ideal of authenticity, based on a devotion to creation and
construction, originality and resistance to society's rules, have become more and more
important to people from all walks of life in advanced industrial societies, manifesting in self-
notions that are rooted in impulses rather than institutions. In other words, this is my opinion
most people, regardless of their group affiliation, would define authenticity in such a way that more
less matches how punks see it.
However, the second part of the answer is that while unique activities, values and ends
guiding participation in other subcultures and social worlds, punk is about authenticity. He
the subculture's ideological system, embodied in the bearings of rejection, reflexivity and self-
update, suggests that punks more or less exclusively pursue authenticity as their end. IN
in other words, while those from other subcultures insist that participants demonstrate
commitments to their respective styles and ideologies, punk lacks a unique set of activities or
goals you can really commit to. For example, Williams (2006) found that participants in
The collective miniatures and card game subculture considered authentic players as those who played for the game.
love of the game rather than those who played to win, which for the participants meant a genuine
interest in these activities. But for punks, authenticity means simply making one
commitment to the larger cultural ideal as conceptualized by Taylor. Punk thus represents a
subculture of authenticity at its core: a group of people who have come together to share in one
self-realization project. However, it should be noted that this provides a very emic account of how they
within the subculture they build authenticity. There are certain stylistic accessories that last
scholars have discussed, such as certain bands, political causes, clothing styles, etc.
further, which helps establish one as authentic in contrast to others (see e.g. Fox 1987 or
Baron 1989). But in the minds of the participants, authenticity simply means being yourself.
regardless of the consequences, in the broadest sense of the idea.
CONCERT AS VALIDATION RITUALS
The previous two sections have revealed how the punk subculture is oriented around the goal
to achieve true individuality. Having internalized the values that Taylor enunciates in The
Culture of authenticity, punks seem to believe that they are imbued with inner beings that
manifest through subcultural participation. Instead of constituting individuality, punk
reflects latent and nascent self-concepts and serves as a tool for further exploration
and develop them. So far I have revealed two ways it does this. First, you need to create one
supportive framework that provides social acceptance and encourages critical thinking and
introspection. This validates alternative ideas that people struggle with before entering
in subcultural participation. For example, Holly said she thought she was "crazy."
before he became a punk because he could not find a normative outlet or support for the emotions and
believe he had:
…I thought for a moment I was going crazy thinking about certain things
aspects of life and community that I wanted for myself that no one else thought were
important or my family didn't understand and I thought I was crazy. I believed no one
another sees it that way; I must be thinking wrong. But then I met other people there
had the same views as me and we wanted to have legitimate discussions so I didn't
feel so isolated anymore.
In the quoted passage, Holly described how the punk community supported her endeavours
free yourself from the common sense world of conventional society to discover yours
true nature – which provides a crucial validation function. Second, many punk communities
establish autonomous fields of cultural production that give legitimacy to particular identities
and cultural artifacts based on peer approval as opposed to commercial or institutional success.
sanctioning For example, if a person really believes that they are a writer, they can realize it
aspect of her identity by creating and distributing zines in a DIY community. Similarly, if a
another person truly believes they are a musician, they can validate that aspect of themselves
perform in house shows and internalize the approval of other members of society
assign. Punk thus supports the project of achieving an authentic identity both ideologically and
But while the cultural practices and belief systems that emerge from punk
subculture supports the search for authentic identity, in themselves they cannot compensate the participants
from the radical reflexivity that Giddens (1991) writes about, or the social saturation
that Gergen (1991) complains about the set of symbols one chooses to represent him or her
its identity Giddens argues that the self was deeply embedded in the social environment before
modernity. In late modernity, however, it suggests that the individual is largely alone, the being
"For free." He confirms that there are several options, but few institutional guides to define
progress or justice in terms of one's life choices or sense of self (Allan 2006). Though
he suggests that we live in a postmodern condition, while Giddens argues that we do not
But to the left of modernity, Kenneth Gergen makes quite similar arguments. Gergen claims that small
communities oriented around face-to-face interaction have largely disappeared today
community. Instead, the new communication technologies have come to flood us with one
an unprecedented amount of social input. As mechanical communities dissolve, while information
technology advances inexorably, claims that humans are spatially disconnected in a way
which has never been before, at the same time as they come closer in a big way
virtual world. Like the number of relationships and value systems that we are exposed to
increases as a result, our ability to maintain a small set of roles and identities is compromised,
leading to "multiphrenia". In other words, Gergen suggests that our social worlds are
increasingly heterogeneous, causing them to lose their objectivity. This he claims,
causes individuals to embrace more values but feel less confident about them, putting pressure on them
abandon the modernist search for universal truth and instead embrace a kind of superficial relativism.
This line of thinking is similar in many ways to Turner's (1976) argument for a change in
autoloci of people because of the turbulence that creeps into long-standing social institutions.
Based on these arguments, in this section of the article I discuss how punks achieve
ontological security regarding the identities and values they have chosen
themselves. As anticipated in the introduction, the quest for authenticity turns out to be incredible
demanding given that individuals in the modern world can choose from a substantial infinity of
roles, identities and values to represent themselves. Moreover, internalized one
crippling doubt about almost everything that exists, Allan (1998), like Giddens, affirms that
they have directed a reflexivity towards our senses of self. Living in a culture full of
constant change and doubt and complicated due to social saturation, like Gergen, he
He claims that the individual has come to doubt the objectified self.
People who identify as punk, or with any other group for that matter, elsewhere
words, they must constantly ask themselves about the set of symbols they have chosen as
the identity truly represents them themselves. Since there are generally more alternatives
as viable and attainable as the identities people have provisionally chosen for themselves and
that symbols and styles are relentlessly sold to individuals for consumption, the feeling of
the self is constantly suspicious of other possibilities. Instability within social institutions
from work to family makes people's ability to develop a sense of certainty about
their notions of themselves are even more problematic. Turner (1976) points out that social roles and identities
begin to feel less real when surrender to them ceases to provide certain rewards or offer new ones
He also argues that important initiation rites in them have become largely
pro-forma, which turns out to be of little relevance and, if not, unlocks new privileges or guarded
information—events that once infused institutional roles with great importance and
the identity of those present. As such, Allan argues that people are motivated to buffer
reflexivity by creating a sense of directly experienced reality.
He criticizes existing postmodern scholarship, arguing that much of it overemphasizes
The role of cognitive reason in the construction of reality. Instead, it postulates that the construction of reality is
it is mainly based on affect-meaning. In other words, it suggests that reality is
ultimately emotional and must be experienced as "really real" (Geertz 1973). For Alan, the
loci of affect-meaning are collective assemblages that function as unusually powerful stimuli
that overcomes the self through collective effervescence also charges cultural symbols with meaning.
He goes on to state that it is through ritual that individuals temper reflexivity. Thereby,
the culture stabilizes and people no longer need to question which symbols are right
symbols in themselves. In other words, reality is saved from doubt (Kidder 2006). In it
In the remainder of this section, I discuss the ritualistic nature of punk concerts. drawing by me
field notes, I first try to illuminate the experience of attending a punk concert. then I reveal
and discuss how these programs rank high in the criteria Collins uses to assess success
rituals and argues that they function to constitute punk identities as objectified truths rather than
to small uncertainties. At the end of the chapter, we again take from Turner (1976) social-
psychological work on oneself, I maintain that punk concerts generate emotional feelings
states that cultivate fertile ground for subcultural participants to implant their self-concepts,
serving as an alternative to anchoring them in unstable and unpredictable institutions in which
they generally occupy only marginal status.
The experience of going to a punk show: excerpts from field notes
Finally, the lights dim and the overture to the new Bad Religion CD begins to play. He
the audience begins to cheer wildly as the five band members slowly and nonchalantly take the stage.
Singer Greg is wearing black pants and a button-down shirt. He has short dark hair and
glasses. Brookes, the drummer, wears a gray T-shirt and moves immediately behind his drummer.
Jay, the bass player, wears green pants and a black T-shirt. Brian, a guitarist, wears green shorts.
and a red T-shirt with a shaved head. The other guitarist is wearing a gray T-shirt and jeans and has
medium length blonde hair. All the band members are between 30 and 40 years old and very good looking
calm and peaceful. No one, except maybe the guitarists, have a particular punk look to them though
they possess an ineffable quality that somehow sets them apart from others.
Before our arrival, I joked with everyone that the show would be crazy and
it would kick our ass. After Rise Against I didn't particularly expect this though. He
The crowd was good, but tame compared to a lot of shows I attend. Anyway, the overture
comes to an end and anticipation reigns. The crowd seems to be ready and waiting for the band to do it
attack their instruments and throw us into a world of chaos. Moments later, they get their wish.
Chaos erupts en masse. As I expected, they start with "Sinister Rouge". before I can think
about this and rejoice in my warning, yet I am thrown before the crowd. it feels
thousands of other bodies crush me - suffocating - against the infinitely dense wall of these
Backstage. I underestimated the crowd, everyone has lost their minds. I really can't see
nothing or look at my surroundings; all effort is focused on breathing and loosening
separate myself from the mass of people I am trapped in. I struggle in vain for a brief moment.
Movement at this point is simply impossible. Bodies crash into us every second and exterminate
our sense of direction. Suddenly the temperature has risen tenfold. I'm going out
here” is the only thought I can muster.
I finally manage to get out of the mix of bodies that were fused together and
move backwards, towards the hole. Unlike Rise Against, it now includes a large number of spinning bodies
around at the speed of light in an uncontrollable fervor. I can't even get into it. I can't even think.
I just need to move somewhere. I manage to move a little to the right in front of where I have
minimal clearance and room to breathe. My effort required the length of the entire song. Without
Hesitantly, they start with the second song on their new album. Now that I have at least
minimal freedom of action over my body movements, I try to immerse myself in the music. I try
Nevertheless. It's still hard at this point as I haven't achieved that pinnacle of experience yet
where I lose myself and just become one with the crowd and the music. I finally catch a clear one
no glimpse of the well and my other immediate surroundings, no sign of Tonto, Dickie, or Jack, who
A few minutes ago he lived next to me.
The hole is crazy. I didn't seem to notice any of the people on it as we stood.
in the crowd. I have no idea where they came from, but they look older, tougher and more real.
possesses a tightness and intensity that is difficult to describe. The audience seems united and
albeit benevolently. People fall every few seconds. Faced with the possibility of trampling
it even appears, but several people have rushed to pick them up. And as soon as they
get both feet back on the ground, they slam dance again. Almost everyone dances traditionally
punk fashion, but they do it with a fervor that can't even compare to what happened
during Rise Against. The fear of being punched in the face strikes again, but I dismiss it and brace myself.
myself to the show. I start doing my thing. However, at this point it is still difficult to do so.
To achieve this, one must react strongly to those around them and stay powerful.
calm yourself. None of this implies malice, but if I don't prepare, I fall and
thrown over the well. It seems to come naturally when I'm incredible at a show, but this
just started and they haven't played anything yet that would trigger that behavior in me. So
my dance is therefore real, but somewhat tame. To put it another way, they throw me
They finish the song and start another without pause. In a few moments my legs become
tangled with two others' and we fall to our knees, almost on my face.
Somehow, all our legs have become a slip knot that we cannot undo. Some
several people fall on top of me while others inadvertently step on us. Although it most likely is
the earth for just a moment, feels like minutes. I reach out, unable to pull
stand up on your own. Finally, two people pull me up and out, and then I start over. i already
feel hot and tired. Participating in this is not an easy task. I push forward to try
He takes a breath, but it's useless. The well compresses me against all the others. I finally see a fool
here. He smiles and then pushes me back into the well. I almost fell again, landing in the middle
he. Someone steps on my shoe and falls. All that comes to mind is "shit". I don't think it does.
restore. It takes several moments to nudge people to pick it up. This includes
only half the battle. The real task is to put it back on.
More people stomp on my foot as I crawl out of the hole, furiously chasing after
a shelter where I can relocate my only means of protection against impending broken toes. TO
A few people sense my dilemma and pull me in, driving everyone else away. hold
my arms as I put the shoe back on. Yet people endlessly bump into us and do homework
difficult and long. Finally I am successful and relief occurs. That's what I love about these
shows – camaraderie, whether it's as simple as helping someone put on a shoe or pick one up
companion. Ironically, the individuality that punk seems to be based on is temporary
suspended while we fight for collectivism. The individual loses meaning, and we work on it
ensure the robustness and liveliness of the whole. The hole and its surrounding areas are similar
a kind of super-organism that moves and reacts to a common sublimated force: the bond. He
dictates the nature of the movement and everyone takes care of the damaged parts of the unit.
The band starts with another song, again, without breaking up as the third ends. finally me
see both Dickie and Arnold. Arnold emerges from the sea of bodies beside me. We smile at each
Other things. He waves his fist in the air and somehow manages to disappear as quickly as his presence.
red I see Dickie in the pit to my left. He carries a dark presence there as always.
seems to do. Stands in the middle and doesn't really participate. Everyone in the pit can do that
avoid it. Perhaps you need to see this with your own eyes, but it is a picturesque experience.
observation. I can offer a corny and ridiculous parallel: when Kurt Russell crosses
battlefield in "Tombstone", miraculously managed to dodge all the bullets fired at him. He
He looks tired. Although she does not participate fully in the intense dance that engulfs the whole
the space around it, it moves with the current, taking the general direction of the well into its
As the song begins to slow down, the pit eventually drops a bit. All
it needs power again. I take the opportunity and move to the open space to capture my
breath. I'm meeting Dickie. He looks at me, his eyes revealing both fatigue and excitement.
Give me five. This will happen several times during the night. symbolizes a lot
of things, I think: recognition of our position and participation in this force as a vortex,
recognition of our survival and recognition of the effervescent emotion catalyzed by
the physical presence of one of our favorite bands.
I also see Toro shortly before the end of the song. He stands at the edge of the well and
He approaches us as the song ends. Bad Religion decides to give us a moment to capture ours
breath. They ask how we are and stuff, but I don't think any of us really listen. say a lot
to me he is "fucking tired". At least I am too, and the band has only played too few
minutes. The interlude only lasts a few moments, but it allows me to revitalize and recover.
After this I feel clear for some reason. For the rest of the show, I feel at one with the audience.
become a part of it. He no longer resists me and regurgitates me and I feel legit
participant. This happens when they start playing again and start into "Modern Man", one of mine
Favorite songs. Apparently everyone else is enjoying it too. It seems to last only a few seconds.
My body, lacking freedom and control, is thrown into the crowd. My mental orientation is fading
too, and objective thought gradually loses prominence and possibility. I feel more like it just is
experimenting now, it becomes difficult to analyze.
The rest of the show is a blur. I remember several notable events that happened, but my
the memory of his command is unreliable and hazy. Generally energetic and manic
dance created a sense of danger and urgency, and the unrestrained and jarring body contact
created a cathartic experience that allowed for liberation. In the end, I think that the element of the situation
the danger and heat cultivated a sense of survival which massively amplified our emotions
sympathize with each other. The sheer power, unanimity and collective leadership of the crowd
focus inspired awe, in addition. As my writing reveals, in relation to the group, my friends and I
it became powerless, with the hollow controlling our bodily movements and emotions.
The band played for over an hour with an encore. After the first set,
the crowd screamed madly for them to come back. Me, exhausted at the time, and after hearing “Fuck
Armageddon... This is Hell”, one of my favorite songs, I almost didn't want them back
outside. However, they played more to please the audience. Silly and Dickie worked
somewhat shares this sentiment. Silly, both before and after the encore, he told me he wanted to
even though he had "kicked himself in the butt". I felt the same way. The band eventually went to a thunder
applause. I felt tired and hot and beaten, but alive and amazing. I felt one with this group of
people I had never met before and I also felt like I had updated some of mine
principles, beliefs, feelings and emotions when participating in the experience. The group claimed
and supported our behavior. After another favorite song, "Generator", for example, a couple
guys patted me on the back, random people I'd danced with in the pit. subtle targets for
approval and praise which went a long way, spread a feeling of respect and approval,
it looked like.
Everyone seemed palpably happy after the show, and everyone, though they spoke little,
agree on its genius. When we went back to the car, even Dickie, as almost universal
he takes some sort of issue with the shows he attends, comments that he had fun. He also adds that
he is tired and bruised and will most likely call into work the next day to call in sick. Fortunately, I can do that
drive back to Athens and study for an exam. Although the stakes were high in that test, almost
he completely forgot about it during the show. When he moved into consciousness, he simply left
I recognized that my presence on the show outweighed its importance – strange… how we prioritized.
Maybe he was just caught up in the moment.
The importance of the concerts
In keeping with the cultural goal of authenticity, the interactive nature of punk concerts,
where the participants exchange emotional energies with each other in order to develop
exuberant emotions, encourages punks' self-development projects by dampening reflexivity
against their self-perceptions and allows them to anchor their self-perceptions
within deeply felt impulses and emotions. During the concerts, the new subcultural participants worked
to facilitate and explore new self-understanding, while more experienced participants
confirmed the existing ones. Going to shows conferred and affirmed feelings of self-worth and
identity among punks that constitute them as real. In the following section, Cooper describes how
The concerts gave him the opportunity to express himself and prove the validity of his new punk style.
Shows were very important to me, experiencing bands was something I needed to try.
to myself that I was a punk. Here there was no pride; I had to categorically decide
himself if he was real and if that's what he wanted to be and the only way he could do it
was to see if I could experience the same intensity of emotion that I felt others could
I feel...actually I decided I was a punk because I lived it. I bled face to face, me
I froze at NOFX, yelled at Bad Religion - I was there, man, I identified myself and
I participated and experimented ... [that was how] I expressed my identity."
By regularly attending concerts, Cooper engaged in a process of self-discovery. Realizing
that punk reflected aspects of what he perceived as his pre-existing personality, he attempted to
catechetically assert their identity. The intense emotions he experienced during the shows.
subjectively it affirmed authentic individuality and constituted its identity as real. In other words,
after going through the physical and emotional experiences of the shows, I no longer needed to
consider whether or not he was really a punk, or if punk really reflected his inner self
essence: I knew it because I felt it. If the experiences hadn't registered in it, probably
he would have sought another way of understanding his inner self. As Allan pointed out, for
Cooper, the construction of reality was based on affective meaning, not cognitive transmission. in a
Similarly, Ian affectively cemented his sense of self and subjectively cultivated authenticity by
fighting to be the "first person" to receive the energy released during the shows.
Can you tell us a bit about the experience of going to a performance, what it's like and what
are you coming out of it?
Oh man. If it's a band you know, you should always be up front.
It is significant. Awww... you will do anything to be ahead... That way, when
get on that little stage... awww... and they sing, you can feel the saliva on your face.
And you see the sweat, everything. You want to be there, you want to try to capture that energy
that they release You will try to be there to be the first to grab it.
And... you have your hands in the air, you're singing songs you don't even know
the words stop, but you are there. I mean, the guy next to you, they start pushing each other.
around and mush a bit there, but you're still right in front. It's like taking... it
the band releases all this energy and when you're first in front, you're first
who understands that and that's... that's where you want to be. That's where I always push
be... You'll be the one to get it and you won't miss a thing.
So... it's the best place to be. It's the greatest feeling in the world to be there.
Especially when it's one of your favorite bands and you know all the words, and
you sing, you grab the poor boy next to you, who knows what his
the name is but you hug and he signs with you you know... it's cool it's
it really is, it's just one of the greatest feelings in the world.
To do that, which Ian indicated, required the young teenagers to be beaten down and struggle to make it
Standing in front of the crowd during other points in his interview, he showed his commitment to his
own feelings and ideas that support their self-concept. Like Cooper, he developed a sense of
certainty of his identity because he represented what it meant to be punk through the ritual of the shows
it was "the greatest feeling in the world." Both Ian's and Cooper's comments agree
Turner's theorizing about the nature of self-perceptions, suggesting that rituals have come into being
largely devoid of meaning in institutional contexts, but more spontaneous, impulsive
-like rock concerts- replacing them with the aim of generating more
emotional states in which people directly experience the subjective reality of themselves.
Randall Collins (2004) theorizes that rituals are patterned sequences of behavior that
bring together four elements: common focus of attention, common emotional mood, high
ecological concentration and a fast pace of interaction. As these elements increase in intensity, so too
do the effects of interaction rituals. These effects include: group solidarity, group symbols,
feelings of morality, individual emotional energy and individual cultural capital (Allan 2006).
Punk concerts rate high on Collins' indicators of ritual intensity. By operating them,
participants increase their stores of emotional energy and cultural capital, which Ian
previous comment direct references. These effects allow participants to participate later
in more regular and involved social interactions as Collins postulates that the likelihood of a
the person seeking interaction is attached to these stores. This works directly to mitigate
social alienation that many participants feel before fully engaging with the subculture
and therefore supports the positive and functional role of subculture proposed by Matza and Sykes.
Perhaps most importantly, Collins also suggests that we develop the senses of truth there
we associate ourselves with ideas, statements, and belief systems through chain-of-interaction rituals (Allan
2006). That is, we define certain things as true or real after permeating them collectively
with certain levels of sanctity. This happens largely because the rituals produce an immediate effect.
shared reality among the participants. Attending punk concerts, which involve interaction rituals.
producing high levels of collective emotion, participants personally validate the "authenticity"
their identity as a consequence. The very articulate Cooper testifies in another passage
this process through a magazine article that he offered me for content analysis.
We lived in a world that very few could experience, understand. However in
Twenty years ago, I couldn't remember any other time in my life when I had felt so alive, so real.
Yes, that was right. It wasn't the anesthetic that seemed to turn off the already numb
the nervous system of our society. It was the latest incarnation of reality. I was in
In short, life... and it was ours... [leaving the concert] is not a good word to describe
situation. Perhaps I should distinguish it by saying that we have just gone back to being mortal.
I could think of very few times in my life when I was so hurt, where I was so
exhausted like when i left that mosh pit. When we walked away, there was no doubt who
was. One look in the eyes of any of us made it brutally clear that the band was playing for
Just Sam, Phil and me. They played knowing we would be there. maybe they even
was waiting for us… the next few minutes were a blur…
Cooper described how the ritual experience of attending a concert updated his
the identity of your friends. The emotional and physical intensity of the play engaged his senses.
of the self as real by imbuing them with the impressive and exuberant qualities, qualities that
it generally seems unable to derive from participation in normative social roles. He
The biggest emotional response the show generated was making her identity feel real and true in one
way that the mundane events of everyday life could not and did not.
When Ian and Henry comment on going to concerts during interviews, Ian and Henry's answers are also supportive
Interviewer: So being the first person up there, that was meaningful and significant.
Ian: Yes, oh yes; It had to be... That's probably the only time I was really hard.
about anything... when i first saw NOFX play it was at a Warped Tour venue but they
it really was the best of times listening to some of my favorite bands...and...I stayed in the front
like three hours through six different bands, a couple of them I knew, a couple there
I didn't, but I didn't care. You know they leaked me there because I wanted to be
right there for them. And... it was just amazing. When you're done, you'll feel good.
Because you're like... awww... I was there and it was great. I have all that…
Henry: …some people get old and tired, so they just want to stay back,
maybe they get the same thing by doing that, I don't know. I know that every time I have
been to some punk rock show, every time I've stood in the back, it could be a band that really
Like, let's just say I just wasn't in the mood to go into the hole or get close... I'm not going.
the band felt cheated, could have put on a good show, and that's good, but that's it
there's not much I can really remember later... maybe I remember when they played
this song or that and that's fine but you'll always remember... oh man!
Remember a guy came up and elbowed me in the face! 'Yes! Really
it hurt but it was great because then it lifted me up and I spun
and it was amazing! So it's all kinds of unique experiences with people of all ages.
different backgrounds and I mean, you know, punk rock was what they were for, but
grow up with all the different things they've done and you don't know them
not at all, but they are like best friends for an hour…
Very similar to Cooper's feelings, for both Ian and Henry, the feeling of "presence" it
events that occurred during the broadcasts constituted their self-understanding as real. The intensity of his
The experiences remained after the performances ended and were deified in his memories. Enrique,
Specifically, it talks about the need to actively participate in the environment in order to create
such feelings of truth and reality. The memories and unique experiences that come with it
Full participation is therefore indelibly marked by one's understanding
cementing concepts of identity. More generally, punk concerts connect one's identity with the physical:
for tactile sensation. Speaking of them, Eve speaks of this in the following passage:
One of the best things for me about it, like... the last punk show I went to, the day after.
I could feel it. I don't know... I was pretty beat up and my muscles were sore and my
ears were ringing... it's a great outlet... like any frustration
or what have you, just freaking out in a bunch of sweaty people freaking out too. AND
there's something about it that just creates this kinship, like many times someone
just grab your shoulders and start singing with you or something
and it's not the same as going to some kind of depressed indie rock show where everyone
he just stands like statues and nods and taps his foot and listens to some beautiful songs.
simple music or cheesy or something and I mean such shows have their place. Me too
I definitely go to them once in a while, but I definitely love punk shows because no
You know, I like to jump and spin and listen to something that
it's so full of raw emotion and I think... it's really... it's like one of the last songs
styles that aren't afraid to do so. You know, everything else seems so inhibited, like
holding back but punk isn't my thing... like it's not that rehearsed. It's just... just do it, you
You know, and whatever happens is how it happens. It is not built to be perfect musically or
lyrically or something... it's just... it's a visceral experience...
This also comes up in the ethnographic data that I cited to begin the section. The incredible
The physicality and intensity of the concert I attended, to use Allan's expression, brought me to a palpable
reflection attenuation. As my field notes and informant testimony show, punk
Concerts create a common focus of attention, a common emotional mood, a high ecological level.
concentration and a fast pace of interaction.
. William McNeil (1995) also discusses the role of unique physical interactions
lead in terms of adding meaning to people's self-perceptions and grounding them as
genuine. He makes arguments very reminiscent of Collins and Allan, but the sofas
them on different terms. In Keeping Together in Time he discusses the role of drilling and
dance games in military costumes, as well as small societies. His underlying thesis suggests that
Muscle bonding, which occurs through dance and exercise, has been an integral part of the ensemble
development of humanity through the creation of deep emotional bonds that create cohesion in society,
stabilize and strengthen small communities and do collective work, as often
It makes boring and repetitive tasks easier and more fun by injecting emotion into it.
arousal and rhythmic coordination. He claims that the piercing creates a general sense of well-being.
being and a strange sense of personal expansion. Reflect on your own experiences in
army, describes how their collective rituals caused him and his fellow soldiers to "puff up" and
become "larger than life". Like Allan, he claims this was felt, not spoken.
It seems that punk concerts share many of the same qualities as drill procedures.
and the rituals of native dances possess. Like the groups McNeil analyzes, the rhythmic ones
coordination and carnal stimulation that occurs during punk shows makes people feel
euphoric and larger than life. As Charlie will point out in a passage below, this is very functional.
for the subculture, as it encourages participants in what he described as its central tasks: self-
discovery and political resistance. McNeil also points out that dance historians have discovered it
"loss of boundaries" occurs during the dance, indicating a blurring of self-awareness and
Increased sense of togetherness with all who participate in the dance. This causes ecstasy
state in which awareness of others fades and arousal is concentrated in oneself. my field
the notes show how I fell into such a state during the very concert I wrote about, while
he reported that "my mental orientation also decline[d]; objective thinking is gradually losing prominence
and opportunity. I felt more like [then] just experiencing [then], analyzing [was]
In addition, McNeil argues that physical dance is uniquely important to the poor and
distressed people, as the resulting ecstatic behavior allows them to temporarily escape
from everyday difficulties and disappointments. Given the narratives that punks supply
account of their identities which emphasized social alienation and ridicule from their peers, their discovery
perhaps obvious and explains the centrality that music and shows have in the subculture,
reflects a need to anchor the self in the impulse rather than in the institution. McNeil also directly
He talks about the problem of social saturation that Gergen raised. Coming to the same conclusion as
Allan, illustrates how rituals such as punk concerts can overcome the problem:
“…the historical process of choosing between competing identities and loyalties
continue indefinitely into the future affecting every human life. This is and always has been
It has been the biggest moral problem for humans. for what and with whom
belongs to? Dance, pranks and other rhythmic muscle exercises have always played a role
answer these questions. They will continue to do so while the gestural, muscular
The level of communication continues to unite people in emotionally vivid feelings.
groups that give meaning and purpose to the human experience” (p.156-7).
Therefore, my data suggest that developing a sense of personal authenticity requires individuals to do so
emotionally and spiritually experience their identities as real by taking part in the ritual
Dimensions of the subculture.
In another way, the interactions in the mosh pits also transferred energy and capital.
among the participants, which created exuberant emotions. This happened through slam dance.
and mingle with the crowd but they mostly resulted during direct physical interactions where
participants offered each other subtle emotional cues of approval or disapproval. a field
excerpts from the note, part of which is recapitulated from above, illuminate this phenomenon:
After another favorite song, 'Generator' for example, a few people applauded me
back - random people he had interacted with in the pit. Subtle approval steps
and praise goes a long way, gives respect and approval to me... Throughout
spectacle, I both intentionally and unintentionally collided hard with others. However,
and this was true in every instance, so far as I can remember, that I and my collider nodded our heads
each other after hitting each other. This, I believe, recognized both respect and
the nature of the interaction - friendly and collectively driven.
Such cues validate the integrity of one's perceived self-concept. To elaborate, like Allan but
Using empirical data, Summers-Effler (2002) found that emotional contagion occurs
be non-cognitive and physically based. Information about our feelings, he writes, is
accessible through careful facial expressions and body language. Similarly, Hatfield has a. to (1994)
found that such emotional information, which generally remains below the surface of the conscious
Consciousness is the foundation of emotional contagion. Therefore, it seems that the punks achieve
authenticity and perform boundary work using non-verbal affective signals that
transfer emotional energies. Such signals signify authentication or rejection and appear to be so
Fundamental to the development of one's senses of self through interaction.
Given the nascent senses of self that subjects have prior to subcultural participation, these are
nonverbal signals, under the surface, and the experience of going to a concert in general, it seems
be essential to personally define and confirm one's self-concept. This is because
regardless of the quest for self-actualization that punks seem to be engaged in, identities
that people assume you still have to balance distinctiveness and connection. For Collins, exuberant,
emotional rituals intensify both personal meanings and social bonds. Therefore in addition
to constitute self-perceptions as true by testing punks with a channel to a direct, physics-based
sense of reality, the social interactions that occur within them help connect them with others
people on whom their identity largely depends, who also work to strengthen identities
which they have adopted for themselves.
My data suggest that participants engage in other specific strategies to strengthen their
also self-concepts. Subjects described two ways in which they explored and
it essentially tested their identities to determine if they were authentic or genuine. These strategies
he was referring to the way they occupied the physical space and danced with each other. First how
As outlined by excerpts from earlier interviews, participants aspired to play an active role in the shows. The
they achieved this by standing close to the band and participating in the physical process
the character of the rite. This tended to involve singing, dancing, crowd surfing, helping others
around those who have lost or misplaced personal belongings, and generally by interacting with others who
They were present. The following excerpts from my field notes illustrate the importance of involvement
in this form of participation:
I never feel like I'm part of the show unless I'm up front where the action is happening. Is
strange, I suppose; the pit/front area is a completely different world. there people
dance, mosh, shout, move, etc., while people in the rest of the place
A bit of passive sitting. I have always wondered why they do this. how can you enjoy
the show unless you express or redeem [enthusiasm] in some way? Punk shows then handle
lots of energy, almost seems to require liveliness. It seems you are missing everything
experience of the show when you are in an inactive part of the crowd. you listen
music, but the experience is something else entirely...the crowd makes or breaks
show. The nature of this essentially determines how and if you can express yourself.
My notes reveal how the nature of punk concerts can be explicitly interactive for many people.
Most people who participate do not passively receive the music of bands that control the nature of
experience. Rather, punk shows exist as a dialectic of interaction between the participants and the
bonds that mutually constitute the experience. Actually passively surrender to the music
becomes almost impossible, as my observations again show:
Usually, and especially in a chaotic and energetic show, I immerse myself
collective experience of the crowd, only sporadically, for brief moments, really seeing
on the wing Others are constantly bumping into you, changing your orientation and preventing
undisturbed observation of the band. Crowd activity is also often more
interesting to see the band.
The second strategy is to participate in the mosh pits that take place at concerts. His
The climate is incredibly physically demanding and also potentially dangerous. my field notes
reveal its nature
The nature of the moat precludes individual movement for the most part. You can
develop an individual dance style, but the person, holistically, remains a subject
to the collective will of those present. The well moves in a vortex as you should
adhere to to avoid complete physical exhaustion or injury. Also the trouble
and lack of bodily agency creates a climate of potential danger and urgency…
When a concert ends, therefore, there is usually a shared sense of survival, because
everyone present collectively experienced a very intense phenomenon comparable to a
soccer team after a hard fight or a team of soldiers after a bloody battle. This creates a
unique channel of empathy that brings participants closer to each other and generates intense
solidarity. In this context, the chaotic nature also provides unique conditions
through which punks can engage in acts of camaraderie that serve to strengthen group bonds
and identity. During the concert described above, I, like others, fell frequently
she pushed and lost her shoes while dancing. In almost all cases where a
participant's safety was compromised, several others rushed to his aid. When someone
he fell, three persons picked him up; when someone's shoe fell off, people made room for it
allow their reintegration. My field notes from another gig also show this:
The members of the crowd continued to act civilly and responsibly towards everyone. Everyone who
those that fell were picked up. At one point someone lost a hat, but someone else picked it up,
held it up in the air for minutes before someone picked it up. I lost my shoe three more
times. Each time several people quickly came to me and helped me hold him down. He
the energy and glow never faded. In fact, it seemed to get stronger with each song.
Several interviewees confirmed the importance of such manifestations of group camaraderie as
Well. This kind of charitable behavior between strangers is not suitable for everyday life.
idea. The moat therefore foresees situations where the members to support it
the exuberant concert experience, they must interact with each other in a meaningful way. This
creates a meaningful interaction that builds a solidarity that would not take place in the realm of
The shows also gave punks the strength to sustain their self-actualization.
projects when they are not participating in the ritual. Charlie suggested that the intense feeling
Experiences associated with listening to punk music and going to shows confirmed and validated
your personal goals by saying the following:
…I divide punk into two different ideas: the musical side and the ideological side
page. And the music side is a kind of party to keep us together and motivated.
to the heart of the political question. I feel like it's there to remind everyone
We can still have fun even if we get electrocuted or searched every five minutes because
we look weird or for some other reason... to have a show... [to] just try it out
building as much as we can ideologically and physically... all the time trying to fight
alienation that is consumerism and actually [being ourselves].
For Charlie, going to concerts served as motivation to continue the process of self-discovery.
and to carry out his political ideals by replenishing his reservoir of emotional energy. the intense
The emotional experiences and empathy created by listening to punk music are also affirming
and validated his goals by anchoring his self-concept. Gary offered when interviewed
… certainly in my politically formative years [punk music] had a galvanizing effect.
Going home and putting a Crass record on was pretty powerful and it made me feel
through my daily existence, confirms that these ideas that I played with and were friendly
taking small steps towards implementation in my life were valid.
For Gary, punk music served as a support mechanism that confirmed his ideas as valuable.
and it also meant that he was not alone in supporting them. The visceral reaction to punk music
and the punk shows (which he discussed in another part of his interview) encouraged uploading his ideology
meaningful beliefs. As with Cooper, he could feel his legitimacy instead of just
agree with them on a cognitive or rational level.
Brian also talked about how punk music gave meaning to his beliefs, and
how it evoked an emotional response that made them feel right and true. while we discuss why
attracted to punk music, he argued that it provided a soundtrack to a set of ideas that
they have otherwise lacked strong appeal. This soundtrack, which shows in the fast, energetic and
catchy delivery of punk music, it evokes a visceral response in listeners. Just read about her
the burgeoning beliefs and ideas would not have been so exciting. He suggested that the music
emotionally registered with him, while ideas delivered through other media such as books
or masters, it only resonated on the surface, mental level, which was not that strong. His
comment is consistent with Turner's (1976) research, which suggests that people no longer
necessarily experience as real what they are taught is real because the information is overloaded,
Technological advances and social upheaval drive the world into an almost constant state of
flow. Given this uneasiness, people place more importance on what they can feel than on what they can do.
can sense, such as experiences that cause outpourings of emotion and heightened emotional states
They have greater power and importance. In this context, according to the respondents, the participants are
attracted to punk because it catechistically represents something compared to lukewarm offerings
which other sources of knowledge and identity distribute during adolescence. henry and trevor
related similar thoughts while discussing their school experiences. As mentioned in “becoming
punk chapter, opposed the imposition of knowledge from their respective schools and instead
He prioritized the felt reality.
Overall, my observations and interview data suggest that concerts serve a much larger audience.
function that maintains subcultural cohesion and group meaning. While the ritual nature
of punk concerts seem to solve that task by strengthening the social ties between them
subcultural participants, also seem to greatly facilitate the search for an authentic identity (e.g
to use Taylor's term) or the real self (to use Turner's term). This is because the programs offer members
of the subculture's opportunity to engage in self-expression through acts such as singing and
dance. More importantly, however, they provide a forum in which to explore, confirm, and more.
deeply anchor nascent self-perceptions. In this way, those who take part in the concert use the opportunity to
"proves" their identity. The participants try to determine whether their subculture
members match their inner depths by seeking catechetical experiences, and also
they constitute their concepts of themselves as real and significant by grounding them in the social, physical and
emotional experiences of extraordinary intensity. Also participate in shows like Collins
he theorizes, punks recharge their reserves of emotional energy. This allows them to overcome
socially alienated states that suffer and seek others for further interaction.
By contributing an emotional dimension to new beliefs and ideas, punk music and performances
they also served as support systems for punks' personal projects by asserting their validity.
These findings are consistent with Kidder's (2006) study of bicycle messengers.
subculture. Interview members about and personally participate in "stray cats," which were
dangerous and physically demanding bicycle races that served as rituals for the members argued that
intense focus on the event that the participants maintained, as well as the reception of theirs
extraordinary felt reality: the muted reflexivity between those who give the messengers a
sense of inner harmony and meaning. Like with messengers, what it meant to be a punk, and
to be oneself more generally, was shown and unfolded through the ritual experience of
attend shows. Under them, actions were reduced to instinct, mobilizing a context that
seemed objectively real (2006).
Either as efforts to contest class positions or as adaptations to cultural tensions, scholars
have long associated youth subcultures with rebellion. Heavily influenced by classical pieces.
approached through functionalist and neo-Marxist paradigms, scholars have continued
working under the assumption that an unbridgeable gulf separates the subculture from the "dominant".
culture”, despite evidence suggesting that actors in such different settings share norms, values
and beliefs. Although Fine and Kleinman (1979) urged such researchers to reconsider
assumed division by revealing that many sub-bodybuilders never actually leave the "mainstream culture" but rather
rather than moving fluidly amid several social worlds, most subsequent work has continued
to suggest that subcultures develop practices and value systems that are distinguishable if not i
open opposition to those from the dominant culture. This could not be more true
than in punk Moore (2007), for example, published an article just a few months ago
he interpreted punk's way of producing culture as resistance. As can be seen throughout
In the sections above, there is certainly no shortage of other work on such claims. Mine
However, empirical findings do not support this argument; at least they suggest
that the ideology and practice of punk cannot be reduced only to resistance. have probed
interviewed about their ideological beliefs, I found that the punks in my sample did not follow
or promote a specific set of policies. Although none of my informants had a conservative conviction,
however, they rejected the idea that leftist ideology was inherent to the subculture. Actually,
regarding politics they simply said that individuals should look within themselves
to determine where they are on the political spectrum. They often hinted at participating in such
would lead to leftist beliefs and values given his insistence on the “flawed process of
socialization” that Cooper talked about, but they did not feel that it was inevitable at all. Therefore,
while challenges to hegemony are regularly imposed, punk does not seem to be based on one
narrow project of ideological resistance.
Except for his refusal to ascribe a particular set of politics to punk, which might be
What was most interesting about the comment the subjects gave was that they did not tend to
emphasize political opposition at all. Rather, he emphasized the importance of authenticity, no
not just as punks, but as people in general who get more intimate contact with
his "true self". This concern is not unique to the punk subculture. Fine (2003) e.g.
writes, "the desire for authenticity now occupies a central position in contemporary culture."
(p. 153). As scholars such as Taylor, Boyle, Lasch, and Bell have pointed out, the devotion is to self-discovery
it has become embedded in the value system of society as a whole. Turner also postulates that as
nature of felt reality has changed for citizens of post-industrial societies, they have come to
increasingly disdain their institutional roles in order to locate and actualize the true self that
they think they are locked up in their hitherto unexplored and unapproved impulses. Taylor does it
to the point of affirming that we live in a culture of "authenticity" that exalts creation and
construction, originality and opposition to society's rules. These beliefs reflect the value
system that punks are aware of, involving rejection, reflexivity and self-discovery. Also as mentioned
in chapter six, as the punks experience their personal realities in a way that prioritizes impulses
about institutions rather than those outside the subculture, the place of their identities
nevertheless, it reflects a wider societal change in the way people constitute and develop their selves.
performances—a shift that, according to Turner (1976), popular culture and contemporary values
guidelines strong evidence.
Thus, just as punks seek to reconnect with reality, avoid market relations and
establishment of an independent field of cultural productions, most of the Western world
you also want more and more people to experience things for themselves. Boyle (2004) suggests that this is
because people live in a world that tells them that the future of food is artificial, that the future
of books, newspapers, medicine is virtual and that they will soon be treated completely
computer screens, not through people. While punks insist that most people are social
unconscious and lukewarm conformists, he argues instead that globalization has spawned a
desire for anything but conformity and convention. While acknowledging that most
people in the western world continue to orient their lives around consumption, Boyle
however, it suggests that there has been a kind of revolution that consumers have
launched a rejection of the fake, the virtual, the spun and the mass-produced. Instead it is called
there is a longing more and more for something they can touch and put their fingers on, just like
When he analyzes the marketing and advertising campaigns of large companies, he argues
that the leaders responsible for initiating these strategies have discovered the contemporary
infatuation with authenticity that Taylor and others have written about, using it in an ironic way
way to sell your products. By linking the products to the notions of liberation, rebellion and
the unruliness of youth, cultural producers have been able to survive in an environment that despises massification.
production. In the same way that punks emphasize felt reality over cognitive transmission, he argues
that what is marketed as cool and authentic seems to prioritize emotion and feeling over it
reason and sensitivity, which, according to him, explains the background of violence and rebellion in
many of the products and cultural expressions that achieve commercial success.
Fine (2003) found similar preferences while studying how people consume art.
Authenticity in art, he postulated, was associated with a lack of cognitive understanding, which
created an experience without mediation. In other words, for collectors, authentic art was sincere,
original, innocent, genuine and unaffected, separated from the strategic and pragmatic self-
presentation. Like punks who value house shows and local music over commercials.
offer, found that people appreciated self-taught art as opposed to commercial and
scholarly products, suggesting that their emotional responses to the pieces validated the art of
power. Pillsbury (1990) similarly found that many diners sought out foreign cuisine.
authentic food, trying to truly experience foreignness in a way that hasn't been watered down
by commodification, globalization etc. Again, for him authenticity involved a lack of
mediation. Thus, in contrast to Adorno (1982), who claimed that cultural consumption had been
Reduced to pure commodity fetishism, Fine and Pillsbury found that people consumed art and
food for the strong emotional images they evoked, arising from the perception of
sincerity and honesty they possessed, which seems to be different from their exciting value, which
Adorno wrote about emotions head to head. So it seems that the same drive that pushes people
consuming punk music, a search for something real and genuine based on the catechetical as
as opposed to the cognitive and galvanized by a self-concept that emphasizes drives rather than
institutions - also motivates people to seek self-taught art and foreign cuisine. People it
is situated in the dominant cultural milieu to assume that such art and food are lacking
instrumentality and pretense of commercial and academic art, as well as fast food, and seems
to feel more real to them.
In general, Boyle suggests that phenomena such as punk will become more and more common, e.g
more and more people are coming to reject the notions of progress that have prevailed since
modernity and believe in them a false world of the second category5. Instead, he claims that people
it will increasingly require real human contact, real experience and real connection. similar to
Allan and Gergen, Boyle suggests that this is a response to the cultural conditions of postmodernity,
that has given way to generalized understandings of reality that suggest that it is social
built and that people cannot really communicate or understand each other. IN
Along with social saturation, such ideas have spawned the ever-despised attitude of ennui.
The urge for authenticity, on the other hand, challenges the notion that nothing is true and that
everything is relative. It puts humanity first and rejects the idea that they are controllable cogs.
Considering the continuity between the punks' value system and that of society in general, two
questions arise. First, why, for some people, is the cultural pursuit of authenticity
manifest in subcultural participation? And secondly, if the punk subculture functions as a tool for
experience authentic identity, and if the drive for authentic identity is ubiquitous, why
Aren't all guys into punk? To answer these questions, it is useful to start with a classic
subculture study. In Learning to Labor, Paul Willis (1977) described the development of a
Counterculture in a British school. Successful fusion of functionalist theory and neo-
Marxist theory, in a way that is very rare, found that the children of the working class resorted to their
class values to erect an alternative status system to save their dignity given the poverty
5 Despite the impulse of many people to seek a more direct experience of reality and seek the "real thing", it is also important to note that simulation and simulacra remain popular. For example, Las Vegas and theme parks.
built around sinister themes continues to flourish. However, much recent research in areas ranging from
food to art to tourism, as mentioned, strongly suggests that there is a growing appreciation and desire for
experiences. More generally, people may begin to turn to themselves instead of looking for what
perceptually it is on the outside.
Willis, like others both before and after him, experienced the school in question evaluating
students based on their intellectual talents, not their practical abilities. working class children
those who lacked the former quality eventually reversed this system in their senior year of high school.
Transformed into "Boys", they expressed their outrage against authority and started a "guerrilla" campaign.
war" against the school in the efforts to get symbolic and physical space for the institution
and its rules. The boys developed an informal cultural system that despised theory
knowledge and obedience, with an emphasis on cunning, practical skill and other activities, such as
such as drinking, smoking and sexual prowess that his working-class parents prized. IN
Characteristically, Willis presented this behavior as a "magic bullet" for a social problem, such as
the boys' resistance to the school's institutional culture ultimately compromised their academic performance.
success and reproduced their subordinate class positions.
But when Hargreaves (1982) wrote Willis's paper after its publication, researchers warned
who studied opposing cultures to be careful to draw parallels between the values of
working-class youth and students who express deviant values in schools. He claimed that we
Don't assume that working-class values are deeply rooted in the children who
automatically imports them into schools. Rather, he advocated that researchers be aware of a “process
view of the opposition culture, which postulates that certain processes activate the working class
values, causing children to adopt them in schools. Hargreaves went on to argue that children activate
working class values as a resource to maintain their dignity when they fail
school. Most relevant to my discussion, however, is a question that Hargreaves raises when
elaborates on this point of view: what happens to students whose dignity is attacked but lacking
Working-class values as a resource to draw upon to maintain self-esteem?
I postulate that the answer to this question lies within the value system of the punk subculture.
As mentioned in the chapter "becoming a punk", informants in my study said, almost
ubiquitous - feeling inherently different and alienated from their mainstream peers. This
suggesting that they were unable to achieve status in their conventional popularity systems
schools. Their narratives also suggest achieving status through conventional institutional institutions
it's still hard. But apart from maybe two participants, none of my informants
belonged to the kind of working-class community that the boys in the Willis study were betting on
membership. As a result, they could not and cannot base themselves on a set of working class values i
to build an alternative status system.
The lack of alternative values prevented subjects from using a riot adaptation to
cultural stress they experience. As for cultural resources, they were forced to cling to
to what the "dominant culture" had made available to those to whom I submit were the ideals of
authenticity. In other words, it seems that the punks in my study repeated the institutionalized
societal values in a distorted and enhanced form to achieve social status and
meaningful self-perceptions. Unlike the Lads, the punks put a lot of emphasis on theory.
knowledge and knowledge, and, in accordance with the culture of authenticity, celebrated individualism,
creativity and light. Therefore, there was no major inversion of cultural values or goals.
As opposed to an adaptation of rebellion to anomic conditions, my data suggest that punk is
more accurately described as an "innovative" solution to stress experienced by young people
in school or in society in general.
Instead of relying on the means of his peers to achieve an authentic identity,
the punks in my study used strategies that were not widely accepted or socially sanctioned.
They established autonomous fields of cultural production, participated in the ritualistic nature of
punk shows and made use of the subculture's stylistic and ideological tools – activities
that pleases their impulses. Therefore, contrary to Moore (2007), who interprets the spirit of bricolage as
opposition to capitalism (essentially a cultural value), I suggest that it constitutes a rejection of
consumption and appropriation as a means of experiencing and representing one's "real self".
that economic problems were not the only causes of maladjustment or lack of status among
subjects, as moral and ideological disparities often explained why they could not fit as
well, his heightened concern with authenticity as a cultural ideal makes more sense. This is
also consistent with the findings of Miller's (1958) study on gang crime. he concluded
that underachieving youth joined subcultures to develop an alternative source of
self-esteem and identity. However, in contrast to Cohen and others who work from the functionalist perspective
camp, concluded that within the subculture in question they reproduced the father's values
culture in a distorted and enhanced form, they did not replace them.
While the punks in my studio may not have necessarily harbored a greater concern
authenticity before entering the subculture seems to have developed a to
maintain their levels of self-esteem and overall sense of self. Apparently they did because
inability to achieve status or gain tangible rewards by participating in institutions—
especially educational ones – made their institutional roles and identity feel less relevant and
less real to them than their uninjured peers, encouraging them to anchor their self-
imaginings in an alternative place: drive (Turner 1976). To put it another way, since I'm under
institutional status prevented study participants from anchoring their self-concepts in themselves,
Participants were encouraged to ground them in deeply felt impulses, an articulated social process
through the cultural ideal of authentic identity that punk ideology promotes and embodies.
Two additional arguments support my interpretation of punk as an innovative adaptation.
to cultural tensions. First, as discussed above, a large body of recent literature suggests that
Today's society has gone mad for authenticity. Second, in The Comprehensive
School, Hargreaves (1982) deals with how the institutional framework of schools has
radically changed since the 19th century. As opposed to trying to socialize children, they saw
participate in mainstream society and adopt a common identity, claim that they have become
highly individualistic, emphasizing the humanistic development and enlightenment of individuals,
promotes what he calls a "culture of individualism." Basically, it describes how the school
the curricula and pedagogy reflect the culture of authenticity that Taylor writes about. This
manifests itself in individualized curricula that attempt to design unique programs for each child,
the abandonment of the corporate vocabulary of schools and the disappearance of endure
class units, where students are now divided into years instead. Hargreaves argues that these
has eroded the sense of belonging to the school and has eradicated
institutional pride that students once received from her. In other words, instead of asking what
kind of society we want, we ask ourselves what kind of individuals we want to enter society. Hargreaves'
The results suggest that individualism and authenticity are easily accessible to the dissatisfied.
youth as cultural resources for developing a sense of self.
By means of empirical analyses, my results give insight into the ideological aspects of
punk and allow a reconceptualization of the subculture. Unlike other researchers who
have reified mainstream ideas of authenticity I argue that punk, for many people, has
significant ideology that encompasses more than just style. My findings, driven by an ethnographic study
approach, expanding our knowledge of subculturalists and addressing the issues and
gaps in the existing literature, especially the Birmingham tradition, which excessively privileged
spectacular aspects of the subculture, neglected to look at the mundane elements of the youth'
life, and was based on semiotic methods that denied subcultural participants agency. However,
my work also underpins parts of his analysis with empiricism, namely punking
in fact, they seek to objectify their self-image through style, and that they resist, though
the nature of this resistance appears to be very different from that hitherto conceived.
I also offer other unique contributions to the existing literature. more contemporary
The research has gone beyond the study of ideology, mainly as a response to the criticism
against the Birmingham tradition regarding its interest in ideology rather than empiricism. By
use ethnographic methods to study the meanings that young people attach to their behaviour,
I am able to recover the exploration of ideology within the subculture, which has largely been
abandoned. I also reveal subcultures as critical sites for the formation of meaningful identities,
cultivate social ties and develop supportive communities of which to be a part
conceptualizations that trivialize them as structural responses to cultural contradictions or as
empty postmodern fashion. As discussed throughout the document, such meaningful communities and
Sites for interaction are essential in a socially saturated world that does not provide many
direction, purpose, meaning and empathetic and valued interpersonal relationships. He
physical rituals that punk offers also work successfully to dampen reflexivity
suffered by young people struggling to define themselves. Punk rituals allow such individuals
transform their loci of themselves from institutions to drives by providing access to larger
emotional states and create excellent opportunities to satisfy deeply felt impulses. those who don't
integrated into the subculture, such outings are likely to seem illogical and ridiculous, presenting
strange people dressed in absurd clothes listening to cacophonous music while engaged in
apparently violent dancing and movement. For the participants, however, the concerts mobilize a context
that seems objectively real, that gives a sense of meaning and inner harmony to
participants (Kidder 2006).
In relation to existing theory, it seems that the functionalist perspective as it is now presented
Supports cannot fully explain why young people enter subcultures. That's why it does
I do not consider the drive for authentic identity or the change in the way people anchor their self-
notions that Taylor and Turner intend to impregnate the culture of post-materialist societies. He
The functionalist paradigm also lacks explanatory power because it continues to make wrong assumptions
extreme division between dominant and subcultural values. On the contrary, my research provides
support for the claim that a strong drive to achieve authentic identity was approaching
through a process of self-discovery rather than self-creation - is widespread in modern times. Because of
the profound social changes that I discussed in Chapter Three, people in advanced industrial sectors
Society is increasingly beginning to search for and experience their "real self" through
forms of impulsive behavior that Taylor's ideal of authenticity encourages and demands. Yo
suggests that this drive exists as part of a larger need to develop a meaningful and positive relationship
self-concept, when combined with other circumstances, pushes individuals into the subculture
effort. This happens when the young people's value orientations do not agree with
from their prevailing social environments when they are somewhat socially alienated from
their peers and when they are particularly exposed to the subcultural ideology and style
(especially the music). This cultural form seems to have a unique resonance with such individuals,
allowing them to ground their self-perceptions in inner impulses rather than tumultuous ones
institutions where they generally lack status, which opens up the subculture as a channel through
to better recognize and pursue the "real me".
While the classical functionalist literature defines subcultures as adaptations of "rebellion" to
social problems, my research finds them to be more like "innovation" responses than
occurs when individuals internalize society's cultural goals but reject the legitimate means to
when them. Those in my study were deeply concerned with becoming individuals, but
they could not – or chose not to – follow the typical paths to achieve this ideal. Opposite to
to try to satisfy the ideal of authentic individuality by cultivating important statuses and
performing duties within the established institutional framework, the punks did so by nurturing their inner selves
desires, which are expressed by committing to the ideology of the subculture and by
establish innovative forms of cultural production.
In relation to neo-Marxist theory, my research confirms that punks do indeed question
dominant ideological codes, into the subculture as a means of facilitating a project of
endurance. But resistance alone did not explain why subjects identified as punk.
Furthermore, their opposition was not directly related to the goals of restoring the dilapidated work.
class communities6 or change existing class relationships. Rather, the punks challenged the dominant
ideology to subjectively achieve authenticity. By resisting and regretting society's actions
influence on them, punks claimed to develop their inner essences, a behavior that supports
Turner's claim that those who cannot recognize themselves as persecutors
institutionalized goals that make up a rapidly growing demographic are going to do it for
participate in acts of will. Similarly, while punks used the subculture as a forum to explore
alternative ideas, their exploration was not directly linked to class-based subversion. Instead they
questioned the hegemonic values to promote in the process of locating their inner and
clarify their worldviews. While social justice is important to many of them, punks prioritize
the pursuit of personal truth over it. Therefore, while resistance reflects subcultural participation, it is
constitute or account for it.
Most importantly, however, my work goes beyond an analysis of how subculturalists
construct authentic identities and instead explore how the broader cultural goal of authentic identities
individuality, catalyzed in many ways by the growing inability of humans to implant their self-
performances in institutional settings, govern subcultural participation. I'll find what you have
The result of the culture industry's appropriation of the punk style is an attempt by some young people
punks come together to share a self-actualization project where authenticity (as
punk and as a human being) is developed through a commitment to three ideological principles:
rejection, self-actualization and reflexivity. I find that punk's identity is subjectively constituted
for the integrity of the search and practice of its inner essence. So I link punk
subculture to a broader social trend in a way that previous studies have neglected to do. This
6 To the credit of neo-Marxist theory, however, I must point out that most of the survey participants, although certainly not
wealthy compared to many of their peers, mostly did not come from working class society over
which CCCS researchers investigated. As a result, one should not expect them to be interested in reconstituting
declining working class society.
agrees with the theoretical scholarship advanced by microsociologists such as Fine and Kleinman,
that has problematized the subculture/dominant culture division adopted both by
functionalist and neo-Marxist traditions. While his scholarship suggests that individuals
move fluidly between different social media instead of remaining anchored in solitary surroundings,
my findings highlight the cultural continuities that exist between these seemingly disparate worlds.
Specifically, I show that the punk subculture reproduces culturally dominant tendencies in a
amplified and distorted form. My work also modifies much of the postmodern theory of
subculture. Unlike scholars of post-subculture studies, I find that punk cancels out a lot of that
reflexivity, saturation and uncertainty in the postmodern condition. It probably isn't
suggest, a symptom of it.
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APPENDIX A: TABLE OF PARTICIPANTS
Name Sex Age of Marriage
Education Employment Politics
Ordenador Dickie Mand 23 Single BS
Arnold Mand 22 Single BA Hotel
Cooper Mand 22 Single BA Restaurant
Blake Male 21 Single At the University Restaurant
Henry Male 22 Single At University Walmart Liberal
Trevor Mand 21 Gift HS Manual
Bobby Male 21 Single HS Manual
Restaurante Charlie Mand 23 Single HS
Ian Male 22 Graduate single
Gary Male 27 Married BA Librarian Very
licensed in letters
Brian Male 24 Single BA Shop
Glenn Male 24 Single Educated
Free technical assistance
Eve Female 24 Single BA librarian Very
Kathleen Female 26 Married Educated
Jarod Macho 25 Single HS Shop
Cute Female 19 Single College
Lorie Female 27 Single BA Restaurant
Holly Woman 23 Single Some
Sarah Woman 23 Gift Some
barista a lot
APPENDIX B: INTERVIEW FORM
1) Tell me about yourself when you were younger, before you got involved in punk rock.
to. What role did religion play in your life growing up? have you accepted it or
having problems with it?
b. What about family life? Was it relatively easy or more confusing?
C. What were your experiences like in middle school and high school?
d. Do you generally feel that something set you apart from your peers, or was
Are you more or less on the same page as them?
2) Tell me how you first found out about punk.
to. When and how did you start identifying yourself as a punk?
b. Did the people, the music, the ideology, the fashion resonate with you in a way that others did
music etc None? Why do you think that was so?
C. In general, why do you think you were drawn to punk over another?
group of people or activities?
d. How has punk influenced your life in general? In other words, you can talk about how
Your life or your sense of self would be different if you hadn't been involved
3) Now that you're a little older, punk still means what it used to mean
to. How has your relationship with punk changed as you've gotten older?
b. Do other commitments, such as work, family, etc., ever interfere with yours
commitment to punk? If so, how and how do you deal with it?
4) What does being a punk mean to you?
to. What kind of ideas and beliefs do you associate with punk?
b. Is there a tension between individuality and conformity in punk? if so tell me
C. Do you think that punk is in some sense a social movement? In other words,
Can people who come together as punks affect the world in a positive or positive way?
d. How have they influenced radio, major record companies and other forms of mass culture?
5) What is your view on the style/fashion associated with punk?
to. Is music and entertainment an integral part of culture?
b. What special qualities do music and shows have that draw you to them? IN
in other words, what is the experience of going to a punk show like? What are you doing
stem from it?
6) Do you think there are different levels of commitment to punk, or that people
participate in different degrees? If yes, please tell me.
to. Do you feel that people with less commitment degrade the community in
Nevertheless? If so, how?
7) Many of the people I talk to usually associate some form of resistance with punk
against dominance structures. If it is relevant to you, tell me about some cases in
that you have resisted power or authority figures
to. What exactly were you resisting?
b. Why did you resist them?
C. How did your opposition make you feel?
d. What was the result of their resistance?
8) Are there important things/problems seen to be with the world today? While you
I could probably express a long list of problems, do you think there is a general problem?
undercurrents to watch out for that you feel explains a lot of what
undermine the harmony/happiness of the world?
9) If there are any ideas or comments you'd like to add that I haven't
addressed - questions that you think are important regarding punk - you are welcome to do so
address them here.