Extremism in the British Underground: Subcultural Fascism(s) and Their Reflections in Music Culture, c. 1975-1999

Benjamin Bland

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis offers a new interpretation of the role of fascism in contemporary Britain. It argues that, in the latter quarter of the twentieth century, the British extreme right existed primarily as a subcultural phenomenon that reflected more general social and political themes. Simultaneously, many of these same themes were visible in the realm of music culture, in which several artists and genres flirted with fascistic ideas and aesthetics. The thesis examines these two facets of fascism’s role in contemporary Britain in turn, thus producing a broader analysis than is common in the historiography, which still tends to focus on charting the ideological and organisational histories of British fascism. It utilises a range of theoretical perspectives alongside a wealth of (often obscure) published materials and archival collections, as well as audio-visual sources. The first half of the thesis assesses aspects of British neo-fascism that have previously been under-studied. It explores the relationship between fascist political parties and wider political culture, analyses the construction and assertion of elements of neo-fascist identity, and interrogates ideas of extremism and esotericism in and around the fascist underground. The second half of the thesis builds on these assessments, through a trio of music culture case studies. It starts by examining the punk and post-punk landscape from the as one in which fascism became established as a contested marker of oppositional identity that reflected a variety of generational anxieties, then moves on to probe the provocative, philosophically challenging use of fascist imagery (especially that related to the Holocaust) in industrial music culture, before finally surveying the fetishistic obsession with fascism demonstrated in the neo-folk music scene. Ultimately the thesis contributes to both transnational debates (about the nature of neo-fascism, particularly its subcultural qualities and connections) and to national-specific discussions about the role of racial nationalism in contemporary Britain.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Stone, Dan, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Mar 2020
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019

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