Working-class consciousness and connections to place in the work of Rancid

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Karl Marx once wrote that ‘men [sic] make their own history but they do not make it in the circumstances of their own choosing’. This article studies the lyrics of the widely respected Californian punk band Rancid. With the Marx quote in mind, the expectation is that Rancid will address the social and political conditions of the (post-)modern, post-communist world whilst retaining some of the left-wing, quasi-Marxist radicalism that is now an established part of the punk rock ethos (neo-Nazi bands aside). It is argued that Rancid has an ‘emotive proletariat spirit’ that identifies with San Francisco’s East Bay region as a place of working-class, oppositional ‘otherness’, and with a globalized proletariat exploited by global capital and authoritarian regimes (see Rancid’s songs on Africa and China). The band critically examines aspects of life in quasi-communist countries such as China and Cuba in a manner that is devoid of much of the romanticizing of Third World Communism present in Joe Strummer of the Clash’s earlier punk world-view and mythology. Consistent with the present age, there is no expectation in Rancid of any future utopian socialist society and this point also distinguishes Rancid from the Clash, with whom they have frequently been compared.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-255
Number of pages13
JournalPunk & Post Punk
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Californian punk
  • Rancid,Joe Strummer
  • punk rock
  • Marxism
  • Existentialism
  • Communism
  • the Clash


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