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Thread: Hipsters: Scourge or Irrelevence

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    Default Hipsters: Scourge or Irrelevence

    Adbusters attacks the figure of the Hipster:

    http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/79/hipster.html

    Momus responds:

    http://imomus.livejournal.com/390994.html

    K-punk confesses and counter-attacks:

    http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/010588.html

    Are hipsters in fact the scourge of contemporary civilization, who must be combated with "good" resentment in order to advance the egalitarian cause of communism, or is this issue a waste-of-time internal status-play being conducted within the confines of a self-obsessed creative class?

    Personally, I lean towards the latter hypothesis, and suspect that the only people who actually give a shit about hipsters are embittered intellectuals lamely trying to pony-up their own points of distinction, and using it as a yard-car like target for taking-out their own various complexes and imaginary revenges. But I open it out to the floor.
    Last edited by josef k.; 16-08-2008 at 04:27 PM.

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    Think you've put the wrong link there?

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    what's a hipster ?
    Is it someone who plays a game of keeping up with the joneses buying into subcultural kudos through all the right purchases and moves?

    I think the momus correctly identifies the roots of this in skateboard culture, the first culture to document themselves, their actions art and interests in videos and magazines and sell them back to a larger audience who are also participating on different levels in the same or similar things.
    The skateboard shirt represented the subculture and could be bought without any participation in the act of skateboarding, and that's the kind of mass reproduced look of a kind of hipsterdom, once the meaning of that was removed the idea of self-reflexive documentation without an act used too, because afterall its all 'media' , although skateboarding as an act always carried lots of absurdities and transgressions on levels, this is of course missed on someone who wants the cultural currency of a subculture though. It's something momus has overlooked too, as hipsters don't commit to what he identifies as skateboard cultures creativity.
    Last edited by mms; 16-08-2008 at 09:20 PM.

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    Default Hipsters are mainstream!

    I think you make a good point with your nod to "looks" - the skateboarder "look" coming to replace the skateboarder counter-culture.

    But one thing re: the hipster look is that its totally mainstream; H&M, American Apparel, the main suppliers of hipster fashion, these are global corporations now, not niche suppliers.

    Personally, I think that, much more interesting that hipsters themselves is the hatred of hipsters, which tends to bespeak of a certain political or imaginative impotence, if not - as Gavin McInnes suggests - an actual impotence. In this sense, the fact that this argument is appearing in Adbusters - a magazine highly identified with nineties anti-globalization movements, but which has struggled to maintain its relevance since - is both telling, and depressing.

    The hipster, I think, is being shoehorned into place here in order to account for the fact of Adbuster's own decreasing political status, as a kind of substitute for a positive initiative, or a strategic rethink, which would be much difficult to do. With nothing to propose, the fall-back position is one of condemnation. You can see similar rhetorical operations at work in the socialist, or post-socialist British left. I remember one fellow-traveler once telling me, with a perfectly straight-face - in fact, quite angrily: "Hippies are *the* enemy." "Really?" I thought to myself at the time, "*The* Enemy? Really?"

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    The adbuster article is of their usual poorly written rant quality, and no, hipsters do not represent *THE* threat to modern society. But is anyone really going to defend hipsterism as some vital and important social movement?? It has no political program other than the development of personal cultural capital, as defined by (and reflexively defining) whatever the current trends are. It's a self enclosed, self-centered, feedback loop. For all the ultimately ineffectual political posturing of the hippies or the punks, is the non-position of apolitical disengagement and pleasure seaking supposed to be better?

    I mean, I include myself at least partially in the hipster realm (as I'm sure many here would too), and I have to say that this bit from last paragraph absolutely struck a chord with me:
    We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.
    No matter how much great music, movies, and books that I consume, culturally, I do feel defeated. I feel like we could keep going on down this road forever, perfectly content, and it would never make a damn shit of a difference outside our little niche community.

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    Josef's point about how hipsters have become mainstream is spot on. All those fucking awful shirts in H&M that purport to associate the wearer with having been a lifeguard on Long Beach in 1972 - or shirts that just say "1972" and leave it at that...this sort of stuff was the preserve of the Shoreditch 'elite' five or seven years ago. Now you see 'Hoxton fin' haircuts on blokes who work in mobile phone shops, and those Palestinian headscarf things on girls with pink velour tracksuits and hoop earrings. It's a recycling of an aesthetic that was based wholly on appropriation and retro-worship in the first place.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mms View Post
    what's a hipster ?
    http://styleslut.blogspot.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by josef k. View Post
    The hipster, I think, is being shoehorned into place here in order to account for the fact of Adbuster's own decreasing political status, as a kind of substitute for a positive initiative, or a strategic rethink, which would be much difficult to do. With nothing to propose, the fall-back position is one of condemnation. You can see similar rhetorical operations at work in the socialist, or post-socialist British left. I remember one fellow-traveler once telling me, with a perfectly straight-face - in fact, quite angrily: "Hippies are *the* enemy." "Really?" I thought to myself at the time, "*The* Enemy? Really?"
    well when i see a pre teen wearing a che guevara shirt i would have to agree that cultural capital for it's sake, is a grim reality. You always have to do something, create something, help something be greated, critique something, deny something and make choices what those things are.

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    Default De quoi hipster est-il le nom?

    Quote Originally Posted by turtles View Post
    Is anyone really going to defend hipsterism as some vital and important social movement?? It has no political program other than the development of personal cultural capital, as defined by (and reflexively defining) whatever the current trends are. It's a self enclosed, self-centered, feedback loop. For all the ultimately ineffectual political posturing of the hippies or the punks, is the non-position of apolitical disengagement and pleasure seaking supposed to be better?

    [...]

    No matter how much great music, movies, and books that I consume, culturally, I do feel defeated. I feel like we could keep going on down this road forever, perfectly content, and it would never make a damn shit of a difference outside our little niche community.

    A fair point. I'd say two things here. First of all, as many have noticed, the critique of hipsterdom clearly circles right back into the same feedback loop you described. What is at the center of this strangely persistent strip? I think it is worth thinking at this point about the possibility that there may today exist an "inner" hipster - a sort of demonic, self-obsessed, distinguishing figure who might perhaps be defined by the fact that s/he is always trying to get a little bit of a symbolic or cultural edge, who is always wrapped in the status game, and seeing how they can win it. "I am not like them others. Because the others are bad." For bad, one may equally insert: "Not cool, not political, not hip enough, not intelligent enough, not engaged enough, etc..." Or even: "The music they listen to isn't cool enough, isn't strange enough, isn't far-out enough." I note in passing that one comes across this move again and again on k-punk's website. But is this not, quite precisely, the essential "hipster" move?

    Furthermore, I think the very fact, actually, that nobody is really shaping-up to defend hipsters (although, at this point, given the hegemony of the anti-hipster posture, especially amongst hipsters themselves, I find myself suddenly tempted to, and think perhaps there may be even be merit in it) suggests the debate isn't worth all that much. What, after all, is at stake in it? What would it mean if it is won? To my mind, if there is a single definitive "hipster" affect, it is perhaps obsessive, more-or-less disavowed self-hatred, which is in fact anchoring the political resignation. All this is clearly being fed here, and this suggests to me that this topic should perhaps be treated with a certain amount of caution. For whom, after all, is this question interesting? Obviously, for other hipsters - who are of course, in fact not hipsters, and who are naturally outside this whole question.

    Finally, I would say that to my mind, it is actually this resigned self-hatred which is the worst aspect of hipsterdom. Is there anything more immobilizing than self-hatred, whether projected outwards (as resentment) or inwards (as masochism?) All the cases where it has actually attained power, moreover, have been the occasions of the worst disasters: Hitler, Pol Pot, Nixon (perhaps a bit harsh, here) and so on. For this reason, and to borrow a line from Eileen Myles, I'd like to conclude with the following.

    We are all hipsters. And I am your president.

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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    well yes, but worse is that whole mp3 blog, exclusively giving something away complete with pr bumf to back it up before it's released in a shallow game of who's first with the new micro-musical trend, the act of sharing in those cases isn't actually about sharing in the same way something like those guys who stick their record collection on youtube or do a mix or wikipedia, freecycle etc and actual internet expressions of community are, it's an expression of how far ahead that persons position is of the pack.

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    I think the problem is that at the end of every decade since the 50s, you've had some sort of emerging trend in youth culture that set things up for the next decade. In the late 50s you had rock and roll, late 60s hippies, late 70s punk and disco, late 80s hip hop and acid house...

    And then style as a whole and the popular culture had to play catch up with these developments in the following years. You couldn't have had the laid back, globular, flared design of the 70s without the hippies and you couldn't have had the stark, brightly coloured 80s without (if not punk, then) new wave.

    But there wasn't any movement like that at the end of the 90s except a new(ish) tasteful eclecticism propounded by hip ambassadors like the Beastie Boys, Beck, James Lavelle, etc...
    Not really much to go on there, eh? So now we just have this mish-mash of mostly retro signifiers.

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    http://history-is-made-at-night.blog...ks-talkin.html

    As I hurtle towards my 40s I am increasingly find it difficult to get worked up about stuff like this.

    It's slightly annoying when people suddenly get into things you like and are all over it (without actually contributing something) and then tell you it's "over" a few months later.

    And I hate all that aloof non-commital apolitical schtick too. But that is the prevailing culture, not a subculture.

    But it's all a bit of a caricature. One thing which is good about hipsterism is that at least people are paying attention to "culture". In their desperate attempts to out-do each other there is scope for innovation.

    We don't have to like it or not like it.

    In fact, having an opinion on everything is quite hipsterish.

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    "Furthermore, I think the very fact, actually, that nobody is really shaping-up to defend hipsters (although, at this point, given the hegemony of the anti-hipster posture, especially amongst hipsters themselves, I find myself suddenly tempted to, and think perhaps there may be even be merit in it) suggests the debate isn't worth all that much."
    Well, nobody every identifies themself as a hipster (even though they can identify plenty of other people who are) so I guess it is an entirely perjorative term. There is a sense that because of this you can use the term hipster as a kind of repository for anything negative you care to say about your almost-peers without ever having to worry about whether what you are saying applies to you in some way or worry whether anyone will be offended. It's kind of like the thing about satire being a mirror wherein you see everyone except yourself reflected.
    Momus did stick up for hipsters but doesn't claim to be one, K-Punk disagrees with him and presumably doesn't even entertain the idea that some might describe him in that way - although I have a feeling that some might? Or am I wrong with that? Are there different kinds of hipsters?

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    Well, I claim to be a hipster, whether you would recognize me as one by sight remains a question though.

    I wrote a short little hipster confessional on my site.

    http://patternloader.wordpress.com/2...inations-pt-1/

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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    "Well, I claim to be a hipster, whether you would recognize me as one by sight remains a question though."
    OK - that undermines everything I said. Or maybe not quite given that you describe your hipsterdom (on the blog at least) with such ambivalence and make sure to define in exactly what way and to what extent you are a hipster:

    "Well I am a hipster, in that I am an early adopter of culture and music, in that I am a novice bedroom DJ, in that I place a great amount of worth in subcultural minutiae.
    Feel free to hate me, Im not exactly enjoying being a hipster."
    Seems to me that the description above wouldn't entirely coincide with a description of the characters in the adbusters piece although I can't necessarily say why (except for the self-identification) - maybe to me the adbusters thing implies a certain unpleasant brashness that is entirely lacking from your blog. Maybe, as I just asked, there are different types of hipsters. Any thoughts on that?

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