What is dieselpunk? Explanation, meaning, definition

Dieselpunk“ is a retrospective subgenre of „steampunk“ that has enjoyed growing popularity in recent years. Partly influenced by science fiction, partly by retro-romanticism, „dieselpunk“ describes a style that was shaped by the period between 1930 and 1950. „Dieselpunk“ therefore subscribes to the aesthetics of this era, but at the same time also relies on retrofuturism. Thus, „Dieselpunk“ is clearly inspired by the technological advances of the 20th century.

Since „Dieselpunk“ is a comparatively young concept, it will be explained in detail in the following subsections. Thereby, the definition of the term, characteristics, ideals as well as inspirations of the „Dieselpunk“ will be dealt with. In addition, the topic, criticism of the „Dieselpunk“ will be dealt with.

Definition of the term „Dieselpunk“

The term „dieselpunk“ is an artificial word and is composed of the two nouns „diesel“ and „punk“. The word „diesel“ describes a fuel, while the word „punk“ refers to a non-systemic person who holds alternative views. So, in combination, a „diesel punk“ is a person whose values and ideals represent the era of diesel fuels (invented between 1930 and 1950).

Inherent in the word „punk“ is a certain critique of the system. For a „punk“ often resists the prevailing norms and values of a society. In this case, the „diesel punk“ speaks out quite specifically in favor of the norms, values and technological circumstances of the diesel era. At the same time, the „dieselpunk“ still brings its own ideas and futuristic elements into this style. Therefore, „Dieselpunk“ can be attributed to science fiction, as it is not a real era, but an imaginative conception of an era that mixes the discovery of diesel fuel and diesel engine with technologies that have not been invented yet.

At the same time, the „diesel punk“ hovers on the idea that his view of an excellent world in terms of the „diesel punk“ should be adopted by other members of society in the same way. The era of the diesel is romanticized, so to speak, and this is supplemented by one’s own ideas and inspirations.

Word origin and social classification of „dieselpunk“

The words „diesel“ and „dieselpunk“ go back to the invention of diesel fuel at the end of the 19th century. The name is derived from the family name of the inventor Rudolf Diesel. These developed special diesel fuels that were different from conventional gasoline fuels. Due to its higher efficiency and preferred use for high-torque vehicles and machinery, the invention of diesel quickly gained widespread recognition – especially from the 1930s to the 1950s.

However, the term „dieselpunk“ is much younger than the term „diesel.“ The former emerged around the end of the 2010s and has since established itself as a new style that is generally oriented toward „steampunk.“ Dieselpunk“ thus forms a subgenre that is thematically derived from „steampunk,“ in which the steam engine is the main motif.

In addition to the purely technical achievements, „dieselpunk“ also combines above all the aesthetics and design of the time before, during, and immediately after World War II.

What are the views and ideals of a „dieselpunk“?

Followers of the „dieselpunk“ have their own ideas about aesthetics and design, ideal technologies, which in turn are subject to historical influences. The following subsections are therefore intended to show the main characteristics and influences of the „Dieselpunk“.

Aesthetics & Design

The aesthetics and design of the „Dieselpunk“ are strongly oriented towards the period between 1930 and 1950 and mix these with futuristic and geometric forms. This creates a bridge between nostalgia and the future, making „Dieselpunk“ an imaginative style. Vehicles, machines and architecture correspond in aesthetics and design to the period between 1930 and 1950, but in terms of functionality, some of them are equipped with futuristic components. Bauhaus style, industrial and post-war aesthetics therefore define the „Dieselpunk“. The flair is slightly gloomy, fascinating and alternative at the same time.


Technologies, such as the diesel engine, the jet airplane, and the first electronic household appliances play an essential role in „Dieselpunk.“ These are inventions made in about the middle of the 20th century. These are presented in robust designs combined with futuristic elements. The technologies favored and idealized by a „diesel punk“ therefore originate precisely from this era. Machine power and technological progress thus represent the core motifs of a „dieselpunk“.

Historical Influences

„Dieselpunk“ is shaped by the historical influences of World War II and the postwar period, in which scarcity, a bleak outlook, and simultaneous technological awakening were prevalent. The tensions and insecurities, as well as the emotionless way of dealing with problems (and technologizing and thus dehumanizing them) are perfectly reflected in „Dieselpunk“. At the same time, this one tries to create a dystopian and fascinating world that also incorporates futuristic ideas.

What is the lifestyle of a „dieselpunk“?

The lifestyle of a „dieselpunk“ is characterized by the following ideals:

  • Individualism and nonconformism (for example, in the way of dress or choice of preferred technologies).
  • Dislike of authority
  • Do It Yourself (since there are few products of „dieselpunk design“ on the market, the „dieselpunk“ often tries to make them themselves)
    Glorification of inventions between 1930 and 1950 (for example, the diesel engine)
  • Creativity, interest in mechanical engineering and engineering
  • Fascination with the past (and simultaneous inspiration for the future)
    Criticism of the ideals of „dieselpunks

Although „dieselpunk“ is a subgenre that has no components that are dangerous to society, it is sometimes heavily criticized. The adherence to past times and the tendency to resist progress are the main criticisms of „dieselpunk“. Critics also complain that the technologies of „diesel punk“ (for example, diesel engines or turbines) still have a sometimes serious impact on climate change today. The sometimes superficial aesthetics, the social injustices of this era and idealized views of this era are also readily criticized.

Conclusion on „diesel punk“

The bottom line is that „dieselpunk“ represents a fascinating subgenre of „steampunk“ that glorifies the inventions, aesthetics and lifestyle of the period between 1930 and 1950. However, „Dieselpunk“ does not only rely on nostalgic elements, but also combines them with futuristic components. Therefore, „dieselpunk“ can also be called „retrofuturism“.

Related to the term „dieselpunk“ are for example the terms „atompunk“, „cyberpunk“ or „raygun gothic“. They all work according to the same principle as „dieselpunk“, but refer to other eras or technologies.

Autor: Pierre von BedeutungOnline

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