A section of The Sex Pistols' autobiographical documentary The Filth & the Fury was shown in class today to present the cultural context to Burgess' pre-recognitive novel A Clockwork Orange. The Sex Pistols were authentically working-class, and are thus in the identical cultural position in England that Burgess set Alex and his droogs.
I conceive of Punk as a British working-class social movement of the early-ninteen-seventies to early-ninteen-eighties which grew out of urban conditions obtaining in the years preceeding Margaret Thatcher's ascendency to the Prime Ministry. It is a class movement: 'class' in its proper historical sense of an upper, middle and lower class perpetuating the mediæval system of lord, vassal and serf, and, therefore, has merely a correlative relationship to economic standing (i.e. individual wealth does not determine -- and only incidentally has causative power over-- one's class position.) The class structure invented by Karl Marx is in contrast a bipartite system of a "bourgeoisie" owning the means of production and a "proletariat" producing; a system which Marx devised under influence of, first, Charles Darwin's fundamental belief in struggle as the elemental principle of Life, and, second, the commercialist assumptions of his Whiggish circle that life is economic at root.
Punk, then, is a nineteen-seventies' response by the lower class to the attitude that the ruling class holds toward them in the absence of Empire. Hitherto, being, pace Orwell, primarily a concern beneficial to the middle class, the British Empire had channelled, directed (indeed, developed) the physical and martial energies of the lower class as a means to build and sustain itself. With the loss of Empire after Britain had finally defeated in two World Wars the global Fascism of Germany and Japan, the lower class had no external outlet for their martial vigour, while the culture -- in terms of books, film, history, sport, comics, history, institutions, and language --that inculcated, developed and promoted it still remained operative.
Accordingly, in the absence of Empire and war as sanctioned outlets for the robust combatitiveness of lower-class single males (sport, of course, remains), the middle-class has experienced heightening of the sense of fear with which it historically regards the urbanised lower class. This produces intensification of the belittlement which, again historically, is the primary middle-class response to their fears; this expressed in pejorative labeling of young lower class males: thugs, hooligans, stroppers, lads, yobs, teds, punks, and (latterly) hoodies.
Hence, Punk: which, it must be kept clear, is class attitude not musical genre. Of course, there is characteristic style to punk music and lyrics, and characteristic style to the clothing. But for proof of the Attitude Thesis regards music, consider Pink Floyd. The hand-scrawled "I Hate" on Johnny Rotten's "Pink Floyd" T-shirt at his Sex Pistols audition cements the art-rock band as the punk bete noir. Yet it is not Pink Floyd's music or lyrics which mark them as anti-punk. The final movement of "Sheep" from Animals sounds like The Clash and the lyrics to the penultimate movement prefigure the Sex Pistols. It is rather that Pink Floyd are bourgeois to the core: Roger Waters' lyrics drip with the bathos, resentment, affectation, and "pity poor me" feelings that make loathesome the middle to both the class above and the class below.
The study, then, of Punk, in its English manifestation, follows a literary line that began with the 'angry young men' novelists of the fifties, through A Clockwork Orange in the sixties, through to Lad Lit and now at Punk .... and perhaps touching on non-fiction hybrids like Bill Buford's Among the Thugs, Lydon's Rotten: No Irish , No Blacks No Dogs, and the works of Robert Twigger.