Postmodernism and Punk Subculture: Cultures of Authenticity and Deconstruction


Department of Sociology University of Kansas

The Communication Review, 7:305–327, 2004 Copyright © Taylor & Francis Inc. ISSN: 1071-4421 print DOI: 10.1080/10714420490492238

This paper examines punk subcultures as a response to “the condition of postmodernity,” defined here as a crisis of meaning caused by the commodification of everyday life. Punk musicians and subcultures have responded to this crisis in one of two ways. Like other forms of “plank parody” associated with postmodernism, the “culture of deconstruction” expresses nihilism, ironic cynicism, and the purposelessness experienced by young people. On the other hand, the “culture of authenticity” seeks to establish a network of underground media as an expression of artistic sincerity and independence from the allegedly corrupting influences of commerce. Although these cultures are in some ways diametrically opposed, they have represented competing tendencies within punk since the 1970s, and I argue that they are both reactions to the same crisis of postmodern society.

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