We're Not Here to Entertain: Punk Rock, Ronald Reagan, and the Real Culture War of 1980s America

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We remember the 1980s as the era of Ronald Reagan, a conservative decade populated by preppies and yuppies dancing to a soundtrack of electronic synth pop music (the "MTV generation"). But the decade also produced some of the most creative works of punk rock - not just the music of bands like the Minutemen and the Dead Kennedys, but also visual arts, literature, poetry, and film. Kevin Mattson documents what Kurt Cobain once called a "punk rock world." He shows just how widespread the movement became, and how democratic (not at all New York-centric), due to its commitment to Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ethics. Mattson puts this movement into a wider context, telling about a culture war that punks opened up against the sitting president. Reagan's talk about end days and nuclear warfare made kids panic; his tax cuts for the rich and simultaneous slashing of school lunch program funding made punks seethe at his meanness. The anger went deep, since punks saw Reagan as the country's entertainer-in-chief - his career (from radio to Hollywood and television) synched to the very world punks rejected. Through deep archival research, Mattson reignites the heated debates that punk's opposition generated - about everything from "straight edge" ethics to anarchism to the art of dissent. By reconstructing the world of punk, Mattson shows that it was more than just a style of purple hair and torn jeans. And in so doing, he reminds readers of its importance and its challenge to simplistic assumptions about the 1980s as a one-dimensional, conservative epoch.

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Oxford University Press Inc
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