The judgment of taste and the “hipper crowd of shushers”
I was tickled to see today’s NY Times article in the Fashion section, “A Hipper Crowd of Shushers,” about how hip and cool younger librarians are now, in contrast to a generation ago. Throughout Kara Jesella’s article there are specific markers of hipness that distinguish the new breed of librarians as superior to their elders in matters of taste, in Pierre Bourdieu’s sense of of the word (See his Distinction : A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste).
But how incredibly annoying it is to see so many people, in 2007 especially, linking hipster aesthetics with progressive politics. (You see it throughout the NY Times article.) The Baffler magazine was revelatory in its exposure of the commodification of “rebellious” cultural identities in issue after issue during the 1990s, and I continue to be surprised to see how generally naive so many people still are about the social meaninglessness of their badges of cool other than as assertions of cultural superiority. (Read Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from the Baffler if you haven’t seen these essays.)
I am sorry but if I were outside I would have to spit on the ground about this. There is nothing about tattoos, knitting, going to bars and having drinks with cute names, reading comics, wearing granny glasses, or being cool in general that has ANYTHING to do with being politically to the left. At one time, “hip” meant something political, but those times are dead and gone. Being cool is fine, have fun, enjoy it, but be aware of the function of taste in social distinction, and if you think your hip aesthetic choices constitute a critically based response to the world we live in, then you should think again and think hard. (Not that there is any conflict necessarily between being a hipster and being a progressive, but it’s not a credential, any more than looking like an insurance agent, which is kind of what I look like, is evidence of bad politics.)
The article definitely belongs in the Fashion section, where it is.