This is a review of punk group Gang of Four's debut album by noted critic Robert Christgau:

Though the stressful zigzag rhythms sound thinner on record than from the stage where their chanted lyrics/nonmelodies become visible, the progressive atavism of these university Marxists is a formal accomplishment worth attending. By propelling punk's amateur ethos into uncharted musical territory, they pull the kind of trick that's eluded avant-garde primitives since the dawn of romanticism. And if you want to complain that their leftism is "received," so's your common sense. No matter how merely liberal their merely critical verbal content, the tension/release dynamics are praxis at its most dialectical. Don't let's boogie--let's flop like fish escaping a line. A-grade

I posted the entire review here because I think context might be helpful. But I suppose my question is specific. In what way does he mean "received"? Does he mean it pejoratively -- "received wisdom"? Or as in "conventional," "accepted"?

Thanks for your time!

  • Thank you, deadrat, for your insight! I'm a punk fan but must admit much of the culture is before my time. Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 20:36
  • Just to follow up -- he's countering by saying though the band's leftism's received, so is common sense & in fact their worth can be empirically measured (thus the allusion to praxis/dialectic dynamics)? Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 20:41

1 Answer 1


Received here is an echo of the phrase "received wisdom", i.e. conventional wisdom, the kind handed you from traditional sources and not the kind that you discover by your own experience. Rolling Stone claims that the punk group was a

genuine revolutionary force in their pursuit of working-class justice.

which is to say that their music is supposed to be informed by the politics of the left. I haven't tracked down the biographies of all of the group's original members, but one, Hugo Burnham, was studying English literature at the University of Leeds when he helped found the band. This is not exactly the working-class background celebrated in the band's songs. So the reviewer preemptively counters the expected criticism that the band's leftist politics was "received", i.e., learned from conventional sources rather than lived.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.