WASHINGTON, May 30, 2013 — Traditionalist conservatives should emulate hipsters. In many respects, they do certain things better. Hipsters have created a counter-culture vastly opposed to corporatism in exchange for localism, a mixture of 1970s punk rock style and a hippie philosophy with a touch of Robert Nisbet’s communitarianism.
Hate it or love it, Hipsters are more effective and widespread in their rejection of corporate capitalism than anything the right has produced. Yet, their apostasy is doomed to an expiration date because their cultural unity is not based on permanent things or first principles.
It is an ironic story. There is a devout Evangelical Christian who spends her Sundays reading the bible and drinking Starbucks, a corporation dedicated to spending profits on progressive causes including environmentalism and gay marriage.
This Evangelical’s understanding is that the free market does not have a political agenda. Her defense is less than compelling, but is often the case for right-wingers. Even those who are members of a faith bend down to the altar of capitalism first.
Liberals are much better citizens in that respect. A hipster would never be found at a Walmart or even worse a Chic-Fil-A. For all the criticism hipsters get for their views on localism, niche consumerism, and old-world tastes in music, style, and literature, they have created a counter-culture in all corners of the country. Their revival of many hippie values is something that traditionalists and Kirkians have not been able to remotely copy.
To an outsider, the creative class that makes up hipster culture can seem pretentious.
Vegan cafes, bicycle lanes, used bookstores, and urban farming dot the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn; the Pearl District in in Portland, OR; and the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Reading Nietzsche is more common than J.K. Rowling, as are vinyl records playing The 1975 and Grizzly Bear and a hundred other bands that you have never heard of.
Despite the ego, a hipster neighborhood is something unique, something revived, something endemically theirs. Those unique qualities used to be featured in neighborhoods and towns across the country. They are aspects of American life that have been lost and that traditional conservatives have not managed to bring back.
Non-conformity is a double-edged sword. While it can feed creativity and localism in a culture that idolizes consumption and mass-production, it also can doom its own counter-culture movement. Community thrives based on commonality, whether it be based out of culture, faith, heritage, or all thee above.
Hipster neighborhoods across the country have found themselves in their common aversion to labels. However, bicycle lanes and overpriced vegan-eateries do not make a lasting culture.
Multi-generational bonds are fused together by the permanent things, namely faith and an organized religion. Counter-cultural outrage cannot hold together generations and communities over time.
In Robert Putnam’s landmark book Bowling Alone, the author makes the case that traditional religion promotes social capital, which is responsible for keeping together families, friendships, and communities. Putnam writes, “Religiosity rivals education as a powerful correlate of most forms of civic engagement.” Privatized morality does not instill the social capital that traditional religion embodies.
So for all the work of creating the hipster subculture, it will not last, because it is not rooted, as was true for the bohemian subculture of the 1960s. Without faith, there’s no foundation. Without a foundation, a community cannot survive.
As is already the case in parts of Williamsburg, many aging hipsters are fleeing the city for the more bourgeois suburbs. Many of their replacements are Hasidic Jews, who are amongst the most faithful members of Judaism, as their large families quickly outgrow historic neighborhoods like Borough Park.
Faced with such a dilemma, Hipsters have two choices. Go the way of the hippies to beatnik retirement or fuse the anti-conformity with a religion.
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