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Societies collapse. This is a law of nature.
In fact, according to this trope, it seems all societies degenerate into lawlessness with punks and other toughs roaming the streets (or waves; thank you Kevin Costner) and doing naughty things After the End of civilization.
This degeneracy is part and parcel of The Apunkalypse. Effectively, this trope says that one of two things happens:
- the rise of lawless punks leads to the downfall of civilized society (a social apocalypse wherein maintenance of lawful order is overwhelmed by lawlessness)
- any apocalypse (nuclear war, disease, meteor impact, etc.) leads to a breakdown of the usual civilized system of lawful justice and the emergence of tribal, punkish, modern primitive or otherwise post-Apunkaclyptic living.
This state of affairs only goes on so long as nobody decides they have had enough or nobody gets volunteered to fix it. But it may be a while before either happens, since the Apunkalypse is just another day in the neighborhood.
This generally falls within the bounds of dystopic worlds, post-apocalyptic worlds, crapsack worlds, and various punk genres. While this trope may overlap with other such as Desert Punk (specific to deserts and wastelands, on or off-world, with or sometimes without a proper Apocalypse), this trope deals with the sociology of the apocalypse (a general agreement on fashion choices and anarchic, punkish, tribal governance) more so than the landscape of the apocalypse. The Apunkalypse befalls Big Cities and societies riding the waves just as surely as it does those cowering in the Ragnarok-proof ruins of a bygone era or those walking the face of a scorched Earth. If there was in fact a major disaster or production breakdown to the point that nothing new is being produced (food, clothing, machinery, etc.) or the Apunkalypse has gone on long enough that everyone has forgotten how to produce things, people may become Disaster Scavengers in a Scavenger World. If so, Post Apunkalyptic Armor may be all that's available to the goodies or the baddies for protection (typically consisting of, though not necessarily limited to, things like motorcycle helmets, football shoulder pads, baseball catcher padding on the front, soccer shin guards, or other items resourcefully scavenged or bartered for and a few feathery adornments complete the ensemble).
- Fist of the North Star -- After nuclear armageddon, most life goes extinct except mankind, which lives on in the post-Apunkalyptic world.
- This is parodied in Excel Saga, but limited to one city.
- Downplayed in NEEDLESS. It's only post-Apunkalypse in the Black Spots. Elsewhere the world was rebuilt and now functions just fine. This is after World War III.
Film - Live-Action
- 'Doomsday -- After a viral outbreak, Scotland is walled off and its inhabitants return to their tribal, modern primitive roots.
- Judge Dredd -- Lawless punks, taken to the extreme after nuclear wars force humanity a little too close together into cramped quarters, would overrun this post-apocalyptic dystopia if not for the over-zealous ministrations of Dredd and the other Judges.
- In the comics at least, they at least try to explain the roving street gangs and block wars as something more than just Humans Are Bastards. Between robots and other forms of automation, nearly all physical labor is done without the need of humans. Unfortunately, this also means that there's over an 85% unemployment rate. In "an area housing 65 million people, that was barely designed to handle two million." Yeah, bad situation.
- Mad Max -- Road Warrior & Beyond Thunderdome are both example of post-Apunkalyptic tribes of ne'er-do-wells (often seen with fairly typical scavenged post-Apunkalyptic Armor) encountered in the wastelands of the Apocalyptic world they inhabit.
- Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior was pretty much the film that defined the look of lawless post-apocalyptic gangs as crazed bikers clad in leather, sporting mohawk haircuts.
- The Shape of Things to Come -- Where Mad Max codified the trope, the film adaptation of H. G. Wells' 1933 novel could be the Ur Example in film. A world war breaks out in 1940 and last for decades, until the humans left alive have long since forgotten why it started, or what peace looks like. Most relevant for Wells' depiction of a desolate 1970, with horse-drawn cars and neo-feudal warlords bedecked with animal skins.
- The Postman -- After a bout of unspecified Doomsday, society breaks down, and people revert to either insular villages or large authoritarian, sometimes punkish, communes for survival.
- Waterworld -- In large part this is Mad Max-at-sea, in a post-Apunkalyptic world, wherein the polar icecaps have melted, humanity is adrift and the Smokers are the punks-du-jour.
- Peter Clines' Ex Heroes is about how the world has been overrun by zombies. The street gang called the Seventeens then promptly proceed to take over the ruins of Los Angeles, keeping all the other survivors as serfs.
- Mortal Engines went through this stage (most obvious in the prequels) going for steampunk punk but has now transitioned largely into Apocalypse Not.
- The Yehtzig Pirate League in Stationery Voyagers pummels a good share of the city of Feltipwa to dust. Leading to a coastline of a few limited wealthy (being extorted) and a mixture of the religious and the degenerate living in an After the End ghetto. Provides a lot of angst for Pinkella's childhood buddy Viola.
- The Tribe -- Living in a Teenage Wasteland isn't so bad right? Apparently, The Virus, which was largely fatal to adults created a Cozy Catastrophe and now the teens are living it up in this Brave New Zealand Post-Apunkalyptic world. Its sequel The New Tomorrow picks up some time after the original series and focuses more on tribal children living the Post-Apunkalyptic life in rural areas.
- The premise of the David Bowie Concept Album Diamond Dogs (which emerged from an aborted stage musical version of 1984): After an unknown catastrophe, the remnants of humanity in "Hunger City" form decadent, scavenging tribes.
- Danger Days: The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys is something like this -- BLI/nd, their employees, and the drugged-out masses live in shining, sterile Battery City (a rebuilt post-apocalyptic Los Angeles), and the punked-out rebel Killjoys live in the dusty, derelict, but more colorful and alive Zones.
- The video for Tupac Shakur's "California Love".
- The Fallout series has played with this over the years. Since the very first game, people have been banding together to form peaceful back-to-basics tribes as well as towns, companies, governments and charities. However, for every New Californian Republic or Followers of the Apocalypse, there are hundreds of bands of raiders, slavers, ruthless mercenaries, sadists, drug makers and the like. The games often feature a struggle between attempts to civilise the Wastes and conflicting desires to live a hedonistic life of base pleasures.
- And Caesar's Legion are a strange example. They rule several states and have an infrastructure based on ancient Rome, but they do not use technology beyond ballistic weaponry and use no proper medicine. They use women as slaves, treat their members brutally and actively seek the end of other organised bodies like the NCR.
- Fallout 3 plays this trope straighter, with only a handful of decent town structures, and the entire wasteland filled with small gangs of raiders who have no organization amongst themselves at all.
- Russian Civil War. It went both ways: the collapse of the society was caused by a rise in crime, riots and general lawlessness after the February Revolution, and during the war itself, if you were not a soldier, odds are you were some kind of moonshine-addled bandit looking like a Rummage Sale Reject (remember, this was way before the punk subculture formed). And the border between "soldier" and "moonshine-addled Rummage Sale Reject bandit" was very very fuzzy.
- Also, the Warlord Era in China, before the Communists came.
- Both justified in practice: modern society despite the appearance of endless freedoms depends on law and order to survive. Money need a central bank to issue them, older forms of money based on precious metal need a convention between people to use them, industry requires a complex system of relationships between those who mine the raw materials, transport them, work them, deliver the finished goods and sell them. The fact Roman Law is the basis of many modern law systems is not coincidental, 2000 years ago they still needed all these to make a state and a society. Punks, bastards, bandits and scoundrels have the precious skills and training needed to survive in a Scavenger World since it has been their province even before the fall.