An interesting Adbusters article on hipsters, my most reviled of the subcultures:
Hipsterdom is the first “counterculture” to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion. But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.
An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it. The cultural zeitgeists of the past have always been sparked by furious indignation and are reactionary movements. But the hipster’s self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution. Western civilization’s well has run dry. The only way to avoid hitting the colossus of societal failure that looms over the horizon is for the kids to abandon this vain existence and start over.
It’s a decent article, especially for Adbusters, who I believe can be way annoying and pretentious themselves. (Must. Stay. Positive!) But he makes a lot of good points about this strangest of trends. My favorite line from the article is “The dance floor at a hipster party looks like it should be surrounded by quotation marks.” Mafoo likey.
Alex Payne distinguishes the hipster from nihilism:
What distinguishes hipsters for me is that they believe in nothing, but unconsciously so. It’s not nihilism, because nihilism is well-considered position. Hipsters are, to my mind, the first utterly apolitical, a-philosolphical subculture of the postwar era.
Even the slacker generation believed in, well, slacking: they valued an opposition to the competitive mindset of the preceding generation. That may be a shallow thing to value, but it provides the groundwork for some sort of political/cultural stance. Hipsters have no such political or philosophical foundation. I’d go on to argue that they lack even the cultural foundation to contribute meaningfully to the arts.
I’d slightly differ in that many of them show a dabbling interest in politics, but mainly as a tool to remain competitive in social situations, much like staying current with underground indie rock bands, artists, etc that may or may not have any redeeming cultural value. Hopefully the trend is dying out. It seems about time. Unlike Adbusters I don’t believe that it is the end of the world that hipsters are around (Adbusters actually does believe it is the end of the world, much like they believe eating fast food is and shopping is). They’re just taking a long time to go away…