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Discriminate me: Racial exclusivity and neoliberalism’s subcultural influence on New York hardcore

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While research on neo-liberal policy exposes its influence across economic, political and social lines, scholars often fall short of examining policy implications for minority groups and youth cultures. In the 1970s and 1980s, New York City officials and elites challenged years of Keynesianism that represented prevailing post-World War II economic ideology, prompting underfunded municipal programmes and rising unemployment that subsequently ensured racial segregation. New York City’s condition weighed heavy on youth cultures that arose from urban declension in a city recognized as an international tastemaker. While punk, in the 1970s, in part symbolized the city’s cultural influence, by the early 1980s, hardcore, punk’s more aggressive successor, became a reaction to New York’s waning state. Hardcore represented youth culture navigating economic and social conditions in an era of postwar de-industrialization and rising conservativism. Nonetheless, hardcore bands’ pleas for unity in defiance of neo-liberal policy fell short of offering an escape to the pervasiveness of economic conservativism that purportedly ensured New York’s rise from economic crisis. Like business in Lower Manhattan, whiteness defined hardcore. Highlighting the shortcomings of New York hardcore through examination of its whiteness in spite of calls for inclusivity reveals a deep-seated relationship between youth culture and prevailing economic and political policy. Pleas for inclusiveness met a scene that limited participation through maintaining racial exclusion. Ultimately, hardcore’s inclusive ethos failed to materialize into the physical space the subculture occupied, exposing a subcultural representation of the segregation that marred New York beyond the scene’s walls.
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Keywords: Edward Koch; New York City; Oi!; hardcore; neo-liberalism; punk; skinhead; straight edge; subculture; youth culture

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: California State University, Long Beach

Publication date: March 1, 2017

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