Rethinking the Cultural Politics of Punk: Antinuclear and Antiwar (Post-)Punk Popular Music in 1980s Britain

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter is a reconsideration of the contribution punk rock made to anti-nuclear and anti-war expression and campaigning in the 1980s in Britain. Much has been written about the avant-garde, underground, independent, DIY and grassroots (counter)cultural politics of punk and post-punk, but the argument here is that such scholarship has often been at the expense of considering the music’s hit and even chart-topping singles. The chapter has three aims: first, to trace the relations between punk and cultures of war and peace; second, to reframe punk’s protest within a mainstream pop music context via analysis of its anti-war hit singles in two key years, 1980 and 1984; third, more broadly, to further our understanding of (musical) cultures of peace. Punk was a pop phenomenon, but so was political punk: the vast majority of the many pop hit songs and headline acts with anti-war and anti-nuclear messages in the military dread years of the early 1980s were a lot, or a bit, punky. This chapter argues that a wider and at the time significantly higher profile social resonance of punk has been overlooked in the subsequent critical narratives. In doing so it seeks to revise punk history, and retheorise punk’s social contribution, as a remarkable music of truly popular protest.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Punk Rock
EditorsGeorge McKay, Gina Arnold
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Punk
  • post-punk
  • popular music
  • anti-nuclear
  • anti-war
  • protest song
  • hit single
  • CND

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