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Hipsters, United

By Alyssa Rosenberg

"Hipsters, United"

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It may be too much to ask of n+1 that it maintain consistent positions with regard to hipsterdom, but it would be nice to see its investigations at least reference one another. Christopher Glazek’s Hasids versus Hipsters is an entertaining account of a struggle over urban space between “hipster” bicyclists and the Satmar Hasidim of South Williamsburg. The hipsters come off as politically engaged but not fluent; even at its most confrontational, such as when they guerilla-re-paint a bike lane that the city has removed, their activism has a twee, ingratiating quality. That may be enough to earn it the dreaded h-epithet, but it’s also a high-stakes, committed bid for control over public resources.

However, in Mark Greif’s sweeping, scourging survey/eulogy, What Was The Hipster?, hipsterism is resolutely anti-political. “[H]ipsters have mixed with particular elements of anarchist, free, vegan, environmentalist, punk, and even anti-capitalist communities,” bike messengers among them, but the hipster “aligns himself both with rebel subculture and with the dominant class, and thus opens up a poisonous conduit between the two.”

Greif’s essay could be simply discounted as an exercise in No True Scotsman-ing. No True Hipster practices politics; Glazek’s bicycle hipsters practice politics. Therefore, they are not real hipsters. Maybe they are the “particular elements” that help open the “poisonous conduit.” I happen to think Greif’s sour take is an excellent starting point, but it would benefit from a less pre-constrained investigation of how politics plays out among hipsters as examined. (Start by adding Shepard Fairey to Greif’s hipster canon of Dave Eggers and Wes Anderson.) In the meantime, Dorothy at Cat and Girl still has the stronger take.

Cross-posted at Joshua Malbin

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