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Mark E. Smith, Brexit Britain and the Aesthetics and Politics of the Working Class Weird

Wilkinson, David (2020) Mark E. Smith, Brexit Britain and the Aesthetics and Politics of the Working Class Weird. Open Library of Humanities. ISSN 2056-6700

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Abstract

This article develops my existing published work on The Fall, which seeks to examine the consequences of Mark E. Smith’s classed, educational and regional formation on the band’s aesthetics and politics. I think through these latter categories both as they unfolded during The Fall’s post-punk peak and as they signify in the present, bridging this gap through the elaboration of the concept of ‘the working class weird’. Over the past decade, the work of Mark Fisher has traced a fascinating, if speculative, formal and classed history to The Fall’s ‘pulp modernism’. Here, I respond to and build upon Fisher’s work by situating The Fall more concretely within a postwar British history of working class experiments with avant-garde cultural form. I locate the band’s output within the shifting class relations of the late 20th century and explore its conflicted ideological implications, arguing that although Smith and The Fall may appear to presage and articulate a particular variant of working class conservatism that has coalesced around Brexit, their work also retains elements of utopianism and intransigent oppositionality.

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