A Quotation From Emerson-Some Thoughts On Hipsterdom & ‘The Culture’

“I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the Stern Fact, the Sad Self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Apologies for dragging Emerson into this, but have you ever wondered what the often lonely and philosophical search for truth, Self, and meaning have to do particularly with business?

Why have large numbers of people from the suburbs and small towns been migrating to Brooklyn, for example, seeking to make what they do what they love, engaging in the creative process and almost fetishizing the idea of ‘craft’?

Below are the Mast brothers, taking the hipster ethos into the business and branding of themselves as chocolate-makers, along with an entirely ‘old-timey’ aesthetic. Few chocolate-makers take pains to mention Mark Twain & Ralph Waldo Emerson in their promo videos:

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I’ve been thinking that upon examination, hipsterdom (not necessarily the Mast Brothers) may reveal DNA strands of previous American counter-culture movements: Some hipsters have adopted milder forms of the bohemianism and cultural withdrawal of the Beats, others the collectivism, activism and ‘social conscience’ of the Hippies (along with many tenets of the feminist and environmentalist movements).  Some others still the disposable income and professional ambition of Yuppies (see: Park Slope).

Overall, in terms of political philosophy, I’m guessing such strands would most likely unite under a rather standard-issue secular-liberal humanism or post new Democrat alliance (how tolerant such a voting bloc would be of progressive activism, redistributionism, and true radicalism remains to be seen when the chips are down). Throw in some postmodernist art-theory and nihilist performance artists seeking human connection in the meaningless void, such as Matthew Silver, and we may be getting somewhere (apologies if I’ve unfairly reduced you to a bit part in a bad theory…such are the wages of cultural criticism in the blogosphere).

Another explanation I’ve heard floated is that hipsterdom is partially the product of the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation. Everyone’s a special snowflake. Every minute of every day can be planned and some parents are still hovering like crazy in the lives of their children. The Self-Esteem movement can then loom large in the rather rarefied atmospheres that some kids have grown-up in. How to live, what to do? Where to find meaning, purpose and connection?  Perhaps many people making American businesses run are more likely to respond to the language of psychology and pop-psychology, neuroscience and pop-neuroscience, literature, ethics gurus and even the kinds of self-help books to be found on Oprah, whatever wisdom and truths they may contain.

Or, at least this stuff is bigger business these days.

As for Emerson, and the transcendentalist, perhaps even somewhat pragmatist, search for the Stern Fact & Sad Self, I suspect it will still figure heavily in American life and culture for quite some time.

Let me know what I’m missing.

***In terms of starting some kind of business or appealing to popular sentiment, I would recommend the safe option of a time-lapse a video of the stars, adding some quotes about living in a globalized world, the importance of (S)cience, (A)rt, people and progress, then some background indie music and you may well have a Kickstarter campaign.

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