On Punk Rock, Ronald Reagan, and the Real Culture War of 1980s America
From the New Books Network's Book of the Day Podcast
In We’re Not Here to Entertain (Oxford University Press, 2020), Kevin Mattson documents punk rock in the early 1980s through a comprehensive look into the music, zines, films, bands, and punk Do-It-Yourself tactics, and shows how widespread the punk movement was in creating a counterculture that challenged the conservative narrative of 1980s America.
Mattson places the punk countercultural movement into the wider context of Reagan’s America and the cultural war that his presidency created. In opposition to Reagan’s panic narratives of nuclear wars, his tax cuts for the rich, and cuts to public education and other social services, punks saw themselves as everything they rejected about the US. Mattson’s extensive archival research into the punk counterculture makes for an informative and captivating read into the larger ways in which punk impacted American cultural identities and challenged 1980s conservatism.
Kevin Mattson grew up in the suburban sprawl known as the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. It was here that he first experienced the “punk rock world” that fuelled his formative years. He played in bands, wrote for zines, and became politically active, helping to cofound the organization Positive Force. He now teaches American history at Ohio University and is the author of numerous books that explore the intersection between culture and politics, including Upton Sinclair and the Other American Century and What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?
Rebekah Buchanan is an Assistant Professor of English at Western Illinois University. Her work examines the role of narrative—both analog and digital in people’s lives. She is interested in how personal narratives produced in alternative spaces create sites that challenge traditionally accepted public narratives. She researches zines, zine writers and the influence of music subcultures and fandom on writers and narratives. You can find more about her on her website, follow her on Twitter @rj_buchanan.