Punk, Post-punk and Socrates

It’s possible that it was none other than Socrates himself who (according to Plato) first outlined the inherent problems regarding classifications. He chose, as an example, the classification of bees.
What is the nature of the bee? […] Do bees differ as bees? […] Tell me, what is the quality in which they do not differ, but are all alike’ (Plato 1892: 29).
Such intrinsic categorising predicaments are probably as relevant today as they were in Ancient Greece. Take for example the classification of pop bands into the ‘Post-Punk’ genre. Should ‘Throbbing Gristle’ be on the list? And what about ‘The Desperate Bicycles*? These two specific questions are tackled (with reference to Socrates’ bees) in an article by Theodore Gracyk, (pictured left) Department Chair and Professor of Philosophy,Minnesota State University Moorhead, US, in his article for the inaugural issue of the scholarly journal Punk & Post-Punk.

Professor Gracyk points out that :

“Within popular music, post-punk represents a shift away from punk’s romantic expressionism to a modernist commitment to use verbal-musical interplay for the expression of ideas, particularly the idea of democratization. As a working out of aesthetic theory, its commitments correspond closely to Immanuel Kant’s model of genius.”

His paper ‘Kids’re Forming Bands: Making Meaning in Post-Punk’ (Punk & Post Punk, Volume 1, Number 1, 8 September 2011 , pp. 73-85) can be read in full via this page:

* Corrigendum : As fans of ‘The Desperate Bicycles’ will know, their 1977 single was titled : ‘The medium was tedium’ and not ‘The Medium is the Tedium’ as cited in the thesis.


1) John Joseph Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) posing with Photoshopped bees – substantially similar to, though not identical with, those discussed by Socrates. (Photo courtesy johnlydon.com)

2) And, to end, what could be more appropriate than a forthright punk statement from one of the no-nonsense ensembles that kicked off the whole genre?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please note that to avoid comment spam, no e-mail addresses or web links are allowed in the message! If you include one, the message will be auto-deleted