Rob Walker’s NYT Magazine piece about people who try to brand their lifestyle and view branding as an artform using consumer practices as the medium made me wonder this. If Walker’s right and the struggle between the mainstream and some version of an underground is over (Now “we live in a world of multiple mainstreams and countless counter-, sub- and counter-sub-cultures”) the next culture “war” may be between the cool types Walker profiles who are obsessed with their own identity and measuring their own impact on the world (and degenerated versions of these folks, the people I regularly deride as hipsters, ever fearful I may finally look in the mirror and discover I am one myself) and the people who reject that kind of significance and atttempt a kind of anonymity that will feel more and more like freedom—maybe the bloggers who remain hidden behind monikers exemplify these sorts of people, on as a large a scale as they’d ever likely aspire to. This opposition seems to me to be the next reconfiguration of the perpetual struggle between an unapolegetically selfish individualism and modest, hesitant communitarianism. Both will be searching for dignity, which the for wage-earners in this economy is noticably lacking. Most people won’t know which side they are fighting on, and many will think they are double agents; both will feel the need to continually reinvent themselves, the former in attempts to remain cool, the latter in order to escape the cool paradigm. The struggle will be commemorated in fits of urban renewal and boutique openings on the one hand, political activism and consumer “downshifting” on the other perhaps. On one side, the people who seek to maximize the number of friends they have in a list on a social networking site, on the other people who keep their social networks private or eschew them altogether.
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