Jan 12, 2013

U.S. Intellectual History on Hipsters and Existentialism

It ran across a very interesting, short, well-argued entry on the U.S. Intellectual History blog (unfortunately in process of moving off Blogger. . .) -- Hipsters, Existentialism, and the Uses of Intellectual History.

Any conversation that aptly mingles together discussion of the Existentialist conceptions of authenticity, the present-day Hipster phenomenon, irony (and not the Socratic or Kierkegaardian, but rather consumer-commodity kind!), Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, the beatniks, Allan Bloom's criticisms and condemnations,  and one of Norman Mailer's  forays into existentialist cultural theory, The White Negro.  Here's an except:
[S]omewhere in the heart of these absent histories lies existentialism and the idea of authenticity, which has an important and complicated relationship both to the role-playing of the hipster and the childlike sincerity advocated by Wampole. . . . I think one of the most fascinating aspects of the continuing influence of existentialism in America is that, even in the 1980s, let alone today, existentialism itself had largely faded from memory.
The basic argument is that, despite an appearance suggested by a continuity of sources and influences, there is a fundamental discord between the ethos of the contemporary hipster and that of existentialism -- an unbridgeable difference between irony and authenticity.

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