Working-Class Consciousness in the Work of SoCal Punk Band Rancid

21 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2013

See all articles by Kieran James

Kieran James

University of Fiji Lautoka campus

Date Written: June 7, 2013


Karl Marx wrote that ‘men [sic] make their own history but they do not make it in the circumstances of their own choosing’. This paper studies the lyrics of the widely respected Southern Californian or ‘SoCal scene’ punk band Rancid. With the Marx quote in mind, I expect 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. I find that Rancid has an ‘emotive proletariat spirit’ (Myers 2006) 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’s earlier punk worldview 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 some of the 1970s English punks.

Keywords: Californian music, Californian punk, The Clash, communism, existentialism, Marxism, punk rock, Rancid, Joe Strummer

JEL Classification: P20

Suggested Citation

James, Kieran, Working-Class Consciousness in the Work of SoCal Punk Band Rancid (June 7, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Kieran James (Contact Author)

University of Fiji Lautoka campus ( email )

Private Mail Bag
Lautoka, Ba 0000
(679)6640600 Ext 142 (Phone)


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