A good piece in the latest Adbusters on 'hipsters' (which I confess I don't take ordinarily).

With nothing to defend, uphold or even embrace, the idea of "hipsterdom" is left wide open for attack. And yet, it is this ironic lack of authenticity that has allowed hipsterdom to grow into a global phenomenon that is set to consume the very core of Western counterculture. Most critics make a point of attacking the hipster’s lack of individuality, but it is this stubborn obfuscation that distinguishes them from their predecessors, while allowing hipsterdom to easily blend in and mutate other social movements, sub-cultures and lifestyles.

It's a variation on the theme of the 'end of Bohemia' but powerfully written and points to the tedium of apolitical contemporary culture – this goes beyond music and the counter-culture, but also, I think, infects literature (choose your own offender).

See Momus's response and the masterful K – Punk's rejoinder.

Readers Comments

  1. “The sources of our alienation are commonplace. What interests me is resistance to alienation, whatever form it takes, religious or otherwise. How can we feel at home out there, in the restless turbulence of the modern world?” So says anthropologist Keith Hart. I agree with him. It would be nice to know what these 'hipsters' are thinking, what they think they're doing. Those articles reveal nothing except the prejudices and political and class backgrounds (and the age!) of the authors.

    Also, how do those articles (and the methodology of their authors, if you like) differ from the kind of crap you read in the Daily Mail about yoof out of control, end of civilisation as we know it, etc? I remember reading that sort of stuff when I was young myself, and I'm sure my reaction to it was indistinguishable from that of the 'hipsters' portrayed here.

    We need more Studs Terkels. More Marshall Bermans:

    "Another reason that I've written so much about ordinary people and everyday life in the street, in the context of this controversy, is that [Perry] Anderson's vision is so remote from them. He only has eyes for world-historical Revolutions in politics and world-class Masterpieces in culture; he stakes out his claim on heights of metaphysical perfection, and won't deign to notice anything else. This would be all right, I guess, except that he's so clearly miserable over the lack of company up there. It might be more fruitful if, instead of demanding whether modernity can still produce masterpieces and revolutions, we were to ask whether it can generate sources and spaces of meaning, of freedom, dignity, beauty, joy, solidarity. Then we would have to confront the messy actuality in which modern men and women live. The airmight be less pure, but the atmosphere would be a lot more nourishing; we would find, in Gertrude Stein's phrase, a lot more THERE there. Who knows – it's impossible to know in advance - we might even find some masterpieces or revolutions in the making."

  2. Funnily enough, the subject of hipsters came up in the office yesterday, the questions specifically being 'Who are hipsters?' 'What do they do?' and 'Are we hipsters?'. The answer seeming to be 'no' on all counts.

  3. Hi Stuart

    Thanks for your note. I agree we have to interrogate this culture further and we need to resist too bald a generalisation and too much tabloid 'apocalypse', but it seems to me that those who have written the pieces have experience of youth culture and have paid close attention to it over the years (indeed Momus likens Haddow, the article's original author, unfavourably to Dan Ashcroft in Nathan Barley). But isn't this more than just about youth anyway? Youth culture now seems to be adopted, even formed (and I'm not talking about vast corporate marketing executives), by those in their 30s. I wonder if hipster culture is simply one element of a de-politicisation that has happened post 9/11 or, more precisely, post- the massive protest against the Iraq War in 2003?

    Marshall Berman asks us "whether it can generate sources and spaces of meaning, of freedom, dignity, beauty, joy, solidarity". In that sentence its 'meaning' and 'solidarity' that I most look for and find most absent.

    BTW Cheers for the Marshall Berman quote - where's it from?

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