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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Late-capitalist knickers run amok!

The problem is that hipsters are nothing like their namesake predecessors who attempted to operate outside convention with distinct agenda of cultural and social change. Nothing about the modern hipster is anti-anything. Rather, hipsters now are a manifestation of late capitalism run amok, forever feeding itself on the shininess of the Now: an impatient, forgetful mob taught to discard their products as quickly as they adopt them. They are not a cultural movement, but a generation of pure consumers. If capitalism were to really be altered in any way, the hipster as we know it would lose its raison d’etre.

And I thought hipsters were knickers that came up to your hips. Now I know better. Chap in the Guardian says that because this clothes company called American Apparel went bust it just goes to show what he always said about capitalism.

Death spirals of a co-opted public relentlessly co-opting itself, knowing acceptance of our generation’s role in the capitalist meta-narrative, knickers losing their raison d’etre… I tells ‘ee, one of these nights we’ll all be murthered in our beds.

15 comments to Late-capitalist knickers run amok!

  • John B

    The hippie / hipster trend seemed to me to be a search for something meaningful and that it escaped from the ususual saleable junk. However it was quickly recaptured.
    I wrote this to myself about two decades ago, before I discovered all the beautiful libertarians:

    At first the hippies were welcomed, almost loved by Londoners – they appreciated folk that wanted the world to be a happier place.
    The situation remained ambivalent through the 1960s with the `common man’ unsure of what, exactly, these kids stood for. They wore pretty clothes. Cannabis didn’t seem such a bad thing. They chanted about love so convincingly that even policemen wore sheepish grins as they patrolled the mass get-togethers.
    Then came Manson.
    In one day love turned to hate. A whole new ball game. `The hippies revealed’. Satan moved in.
    It had been a long happy summer. Idle moments in Holland Park as jets went overhead to Heathrow. Intricate pathways through the trees. The gentle scent of forest in the city. Pathways covered with leaves. Dogs gambolled in the evening light. The silence of trees echoing with voices of children at play. Generous gestures and easy acceptance. Even harsh, drab Notting Hill Gate took on colour. Portobello Road was fun. The massive music boxes could play an entire concerto of sound – he loved sound.
    Paris was just hours away.
    Old prejudices prevailed. In fact the hippie `ethos’ only filtered through long, long after its possibility had dwindled to saleable dreams marketed by competent businessmen.
    Utopia is not yet accessible. At least the old standards provided a degree of freedom – enough for the hippies to be born. Love, when legislated, becomes hate – totalitarian.
    The hippies were somehow a magnificent phenomenon that everyone ignored until 10, 20 years after, when they recalled the `glorious summer of ’67’. An ethos was stillborn. No. It lived a few months.
    There was media-hype with the Beatles and a new craze of the sixties, but, in fact, the media were out of touch, and the whole movement for love and innocence endured a reprieve from interpretation – manipulation. Main media didn’t touch it. It was beyond understanding.
    Okay – there were beggars asking for money on the steps of psychedelic nightclubs but the essence was a drive for love – to make something beautiful, exciting and real, work. This, after a generation of cocky ego hate-mania.
    The Teds. The Mods. The Rockers. Whatever. Ego.
    But the hate mania returned. The emphasis slipped back from a search for delight – an essentially disciplined task – to the ease of ego. Ego is straightforward if that is the way you are built.
    The hippie time was based on a totally contrary current. Ego was Out. Love was in. Who cares? Who can even remember except a few who did not die? LSD was a bastard. A revealer – a betrayer.
    No-one will adequately record the euphoria of the hippie time. It is something that came and went and is beyond realistic recall.
    How, in a world based on survival, did it ever come about? Perhaps it was a KGB plot? If it was then the KGB understood something worth keeping.
    Truth is gentle – the easiest thing to obfuscate.

  • DBC Reed

    The most famous early hipster was Harry “the Hipster” Gibson who in the forties/early fifties pretty well invented piano-based rock and roll with numbers like “Who put the Benzedrine in Mrs Murphy’s Ovaltine?” Norman Mailer talked up the hipsters at about the same time he was writing about the white negro.There should be loads of U-tube recordings of Gibson from the Soundies,short films played on American juke boxes.

  • RAB

    “Hipsters flipsters and finger poppin daddies, lend me your lobes.
    I come to bury Caesar, not to hip you to him…”

    Intro to Willy the Shake by Lord Buckley, a 50s comedian who was unique. I have never heard anyone even vaguely like him. A Beat Jazz buff, because the whole Hipster alternative society thing goes back to the beats.

    Think Jack Kerouac and On the Road. His hero Dean Moriarty, was based on Neil Cassady, who actually did the living whilst Kerouac stayed home and did the writing.

    Cassady turned up a generation later as a key player with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, and the Grateful Dead and the Acid Tests.

    I have always been interested in that era, and kinda wished I’d been older so I could have participated rather than reading about and meeting some of the characters after the fact.

    Very proto Libertarian indeed. When they said “Do your own thing” it most definately didn’t mean getting a handout from the State for it.

  • Charlie

    I’m wondering if the hipster thing is better defined by the Japanese trend which translates to “fast fashion” (like fast food). At least with hippies, each tie-dyed shirt was unique and they ran naked through the woods at least once. Now, the tie-dyed is a printed pattern, every shirt the same and these people will never know what it is like to be outside of marketing control.

  • John B,

    “In fact the hippie ‘ethos’ only filtered through long, long after its possibility had dwindled to saleable dreams marketed by competent businessmen.”

    You remind me of the closing scenes of “Withnail and I”.

    “They’re selling hippy wigs in Woolworths…” quoth the dealer.

    “Love, when legislated, becomes hate.”

    John, you get your cigar for that one. That is QOTD material. The only reason I’m not half-inching it for Counting Cats is that we have about five posts up today already but I will not guarantee I shall not in the near future. That is a champagne quote for any of the forms of love recognised by the Greeks.

    And yes, I shall shorten it to what I wrote above. I think it is pithier that way.

    My hat is off to you.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    ‘Hipsters’ once exemplified style over substance; now they exemplify fashion over substance. I’m not all that taken with either manifestation.

    I still think Coltrane was having White hipsters on.

  • John B

    Thanks Nick. Most kind.
    May the truth prevail!

  • lukas

    I’m amazed that there are still people about using the words “late capitalism” with a straight face. By my reckoning we must be safely in late late capitalism by now, if not beyond… And capitalism shows no signs of going away.

  • RAB

    I still think Coltrane was having White hipsters on.

    Cheap shot PFP, unworthy of you. As if he was not having black hipsters on too?

    He wasn’t having anyone on. He was probably the best Sax player that ever lived.

    Can you fault a note on Kind of Blue or Spiritual?

    Yes, his very last work, infused as it was by religion, and gone down the wrong path of free jazz, was almost unlistenable, that’s why we jazz fans dont listen to it. he meant it very very sincerely though. No essence of Michael was being extracted at all.

    I’ll second John B for QOTD too, by the way.

  • Robert Speirs

    I disagree that the Beats would never have taken state handouts. Handouts were their due, man. Who do you think they were, Eric Hoffer? They just would have refused to do anything they didn’t want to do to get handouts. And then they would have insisted on dictating who got handouts. They were totalitarian at heart. That’s why they’re so admired these days.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Cheap shot PFP, unworthy of you.

    Posted by RAB at August 30, 2010 12:07 AM

    Not intended as such. It’s just that when I’ve tried to listen to him, the effect’s been that I’ve been struck tone-deaf, leading to the suspicion that (the fictional) Reginald Perrin wasn’t the first person to commercialise “Grot.”

    I’ll look up the works you suggest and see if I’ve stepped all over myself.

  • RAB

    Perhaps I was being a bit harsh PFP.

    Not everyone likes jazz, even in its cooler mellower forms.

    My oldest best friend, The Luddite Hippie of La Honda, is a musician and has a band in California and he has trouble liking Jazz.

    So try this…


    From the Kind of Blue album, generally believed to be the finest jazz album ever recorded.

    I agree. Its plaintive melancholy beauty literally makes me cry.

    But like I say, Jazz aint for everyone.

  • Current

    I’ve known quite a lot of “hipsters”, and a few are friends of mine.

    In my experience they are people not accustomed to doing much careful thinking. A lot of them aren’t very smart. Their culture emphasises emotion and drama much more, in some quarters it emphasises action too. That’s why they do things like organize cultural events and music festivals.

    I know quite a few of them that live off unemployment benefit and a couple that live by fiddling disability benefit. They see that as perfectly legitimate because their behaviour creates positive externalities that are higher than the cost (they wouldn’t put it in those words, but that’s the essence of what they mean). I agree in many cases that they do create positive externalities, but I’ve no way of knowing if that pays for the costs, I doubt it.

    All that said, they’re interesting people and often great fun to hang around with.

  • “History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

    And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

    So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

    (Hunter S. Thompson — “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas”) I think it was Thompson who first called the doom of hipsters, and why.

    It wasn’t capitalism that brought down hipsterism, though. It’s just that it was a shitty product.

  • Hipsters have run out of original source material to recycle. Much like Mad Cow — livestock are fed the processed remains of same-species livestock.

    Culture Vultures have always been with us, but now we have Cultural Cannibalism — hipsters who binge on the art and music of others yet don’t do the proverbial homework, resulting in massive amounts of content-less effluvia.