I am currently reading an advanced uncorrected proof of the non-fiction book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing New Domesticity, which appealed to me because I did not previously think of the DIY and self-sufficient domesticity movements from the angle of a gender issue. While the particular edition I am reading is an advance reader copy and I can’t quote from it, I can say that the book and the topical matters at hand make me wonder what can follow from this… I will leave you to read the book to get more immersed in the possible sexism with aspects of these movements.
If decades and time periods could be described thematically, we are then constantly responding to the prevailing spirit of a previous culture and then there is a great deal of overlap. I feel like it is safe to say, for example, that 1945 to 2008 in the US will be defined along the terms of “The Height of Consumerism” where byproducts of World War II were integrated into the economy. However, within that period, there was McCarthyism, expansion of the welfare state for a time, oil shocks in 1973 and 1979, hedonism in the 70s, egoism in the 80s, and so forth. Right now, there are several movements and cultures taking place that are sometimes complimentary and at other times antithetical.
I am late to catch on to many things taking place, and one such thing was the term “hipster.” The first time I heard the word and it resonated enough for me to make a ton of associations with it was as a library science student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada in the spring of 2011. If you were born in the 1970s or 1980s and have spent time in an urban environment, this type of consumer profile and mentality have been inescapable – the flannel clothing and calls to end capitalism prevail among some segments of the population in any conurbation. There is a bit of a tie-in between hipsters and sustainable living with an environmentalist streak, but these terms are not always connected. I first remember seeing hipster dress in the mid-2000s in New York, then there was more of it going on in France with the Bobo (bohemian+bourgeois, identified in the New York Times in 2000) groups. By 2011 in Vancouver, the hipster look and associated culture seemed very tiresome and overplayed in that market, though I expect to find in a few weeks that it is not gone.
As I sit in Topeka, Kansas now three years later however, it could be said that the hipster culture is just getting started here. I see business partners and couples with beards and flannel shirts scoping property to open a new business. To boycott Wal-Mart and stick to it or proclaim an end to the monetary system in favor of socialism is still a major statement (though to call for the end of the Federal Reserve or quote Alex Jones has not been considered off-base for the last five years or so). By the time something reaches the edge of densely populated settlements in a place like here, it usually will not be long before something else gets started in East London and the Paris ghetto arrondissements, where everything culturally relevant except for Crocs springs forth… or will that be the case in an internet era where influence is faster than ever but has the potential to be decentralized?
Is there a crafting bubble? Will an era with very insecure employment still have enough of a population able to purchase the products and produce made at home and by small business?
I actually think that the New Domesticity economy is just getting started. A lot of the pretense and novelty of it will wear off as it becomes integrated into normalcy and more people have to barter in order to offset inflation that will come from quantitative easing. This has happened to some extent but will make strong inroads into our mindset when we have our first tremendous commodities shock sometime by the next US presidential election in 2016. A major supply chain disruption, closed offshore market, drought-induced doubling of the price of grain, or some other cataclysm is very much on the horizon and this will erode the romanticism for many fantasizing about the lifestyle and also the skepticism of factions who see conservation and caution with consumer behavior as flaky. A general agreement on the necessary course of caution and careful measure of resource use will be reached by the majority while we will witness desperate attempts to assert power over resources and infrastructure.
Therefore, I do not see a new movement or counterculture springing from an emphasis in sustainability and a more ethical consumer profile. To survive the prevailing winds, it is a time to diversify and multiply one’s income streams (part steady work, part building skills that can be utilized on the side and with greater emphasis in a situation of reduced circumstances, part commodities or so-called “passive” income) and concentrate on forming discrete networks. The talking heads on television will get more provocative as the audience shrinks while 80% of the population quietly cooperates and moves their transactions into the businesses of people they know.
The major outlier that throws everything off is that people will continue to need to invest in technology (mobile platforms mainly) in order to carry out a lot of their affairs and be perceived as relevant players. There is nothing to suggest that there is or will be any significant resistance to automation and the transhumanist movement. This is the major schism in our present situation which will mean that capital will continue to concentrate in a very pronounced way to Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston, Singapore, suburban New York, and other Knowledge Economy sites and go mostly untaxed into coffers in the Caribbean, Bermuda, the Isle of Man and other such places. This widening gap will result in largely separate lives experienced by these different worlds and less interaction between them, so both can exist simultaneously and uninterrupted, but will not necessarily coexist.
What have I left out? Please continue the discussion with generational differences, dropping labor participation rates, functional (il)literacy, or whatever you see fit.