What Comes After the Hipster, “New Domesticity” Wave?

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)


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.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/liquidskyarts/8955041998/in/photostream/ From HOMEWARD BOUND: WHY WOMEN ARE EMBRACING THE NEW DOMESTICITY by Emily Matchar

https://www.flickr.com/photos/liquidskyarts/8955041998/in/photostream/ From HOMEWARD BOUND: WHY WOMEN ARE EMBRACING THE NEW DOMESTICITY by Emily Matchar

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.

Check out my past life regression experiences of 2014! (#1, #2, and #3)

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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6 Responses to What Comes After the Hipster, “New Domesticity” Wave?

  1. Lisa Falour says:

    Very, very interesting essay here. Around 1990 I first saw Faith Popcorn, who did (and I think still does) analyses of near-future trends. There was a rough recession from ’87-’92+, and in NYC where I was living, half the medium- to small-sized businesses FAILED. It was scary — you’d drop off your dry cleaning in the morning and they’d be gone by 6 pm, everything just left in there, locked up, in a jumble. This was the third major recession I’d lived through (and was aware of), I think, and it was unpleasant in the extreme.

    Ms. Popcorn said that people were not going to “cocoon” as much as they’d “burrow,” and she was right. Trying to keep your business going for “just one more year” to try to ride out that recession was a loser — people were not only generally short of money, they were scared — and weren’t even buying “necessities,” often.

    I ended up expatriating in ’94 and returned to NYC in ’98 to find an upbeat city. I just couldn’t forget what I’d experienced, however, and of course did not forget all the first-hand Great Depression stories I’d heard growing up in Ohio. I was in my late ’30s and kept it in mind that I wanted to retire as early as possible and “get off the hamster wheel.” In France, I found a fairly stagnant economy, but that’s often normal for here — people tend to think generations ahead, as I’ve heard they do in China, for example — and for things to take time to develop and grow is felt to be normal — it’s not a “go-go” scene. By the late ’90s, however, it was hard to “be unemployed” in Paris, I found, and darn easy to invest and do well. I was certain it wouldn’t last and was barely surprised at the dot-com crash of ’00, nor did the Asian markets crisis of ’97 escape me (it cost me my job in Paris and the business folded). Being an expat and having to learn to be my own best friend and spend a lot of time alone not only gave me the time I’d always wanted to focus on my learning and creative activities, but to appreciate being “a working housewife” — something generally very much approved of in this country. I took a lot of ribbing from friends, family and contacts back in the States — they thought it was funny I was learning to buy a quarter of a mutton direct, and see to its butchering and processing myself to last for a couple of months hilarious. When I learned to tat (make lace using a single needle in my case, something my father did very well and I’d always remembered) and always have lovely, useful gifts on hand and pin money for doing fancy lace trim for christening gowns and the like, the comments got downright rude (from the States). Indeed, it was very domestic, being the “anchor of the household,” and I’d always had it in mind that I’d like to live that way, but it just never seemed possible in the USA.

    I was intrigued by President Chavez’s guaranteed annual salary with basic benefits for homemakers in Venezuela. Whether male or female, it was felt that this valuable work would improved households and also community security — as someone would usually be at home or nearby to keep burglars and such looking for softer targets. I don’t know how that program worked out, but it seemed like a really good idea to me. One “homemaker” per household, whether a large or small household, being at least credited and given some kind of a low, steady income for doing the cooking, cleaning, shopping, child- and elder-care, et c. Legitimizing it.

    I find it interesting that a recent article in France (I think it was in LIBERATION this month) described how many Americans are being advised to acquire real estate, if they can, which is large enough to accommodate an extended family group with private entrances and their own kitchens and bathrooms, thus providing an economy of scale and a supportive system. My Parisian spouse was chuckling that Americans were re-discovering what most of the rest of the world has always known — several generations living together in dignity and relative independence but on the same property can be a sane and positive model.

    Funny to see the word “hipster” here. At this point, for about five years now I shy away from anyone who uses this term around me! Ha ha ha ha ha!! (They invariably turn out to be very, very unhip!)

    • Something about the terminoloy has made this article highly searchable. Just in the time since I ran this story it has seemed like the hipster economy has sputtered as the credit or energy runs out a bit.

      • Lisa Falour says:

        I really can’t blame them for being diehards and optimistic — even foolishly so. It’s worse to be a full-time pessimist and have the sin of acedia. I’ve enjoyed many “with-it” friends, coworkers and contacts over the decades, and they usually get to a point where they cannot sustain their proclivities, or, and this is positive, I think, they “trim the fat” and learn to live very simply, making their own lifestyles instead of being cookie-cutter trends-oriented people.

        I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and neither is better. Both are extremes in their own ways, and both have anxiety-creating aspects to them. I know I feel more at ease when my life isn’t all THAT complicated.

        Warren Pollock recently did a brilliant, short clip supporting my observations that the USA is now Third World. He just focused on the basic American infrastructure and that illustrated it beautifully. Investing in the USA, domestically or from abroad, with such a rotted infrastructure and such an unwell and largely uneducated, unequipped work force does not bode well for the US, because any brilliant people can be recruited to go be overseas, and any good technology can be legally and fairly acquired (I won’t even go into corporate espionage and industrial spying, which we know is ongoing, but let’s just look at fair and square stuff). Second and First World countries take precedent.

        Really, it does make sense: by being able to comfortably, decently, affordably allow for other family members to be residents on one property makes sense. It needn’t be a big place, either. Not everyone has to be crammed into a hovel. Parts of the property with independent access are also potential rental spaces, depending on zoning laws and tax structures. I personally have never felt well in marriage unless there are two properties. One can be extremely tiny — but in the event of a split-up, or even in the happy event of a child who grows, thrives and may need, at least, a first home for studies or starting out in life, the elements are there and can be paid for. A disabled or elderly relative can be “at home,” in a way, and save “assisted living” or “retirement home” costs. Any able-bodied person can have a legal, clear, written and notarized (at least) arrangement to help with chores, home security, child care, et c. I do know two people, both American (one Asiatic and one Mexican in roots) who didn’t get “something valid in writing,” and both were used for years and then cast out, uncompensated. A slight bit of attention to this, however, could have made the entire situation a win-win for all concerned.

        Your own current living situation brings this to mind. You have independence, as far as I can tell.

  2. huascarmedina says:

    Love the scope and direction of this piece. I have been adamant about my view that if you are living in a capitalistic society your voting booth is the cash register. Each dollar is a ballot and should be treated with the same apprehension needed to elect a democratic leader.

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