How is Being Conservative Like Being a Hipster?

We’re repulsive, arrogant snobs and everyone hates us!

But really, there’s a great analogy between the hipster approach to “stuff” culture and the conservative approach to “ideas” culture. First, some background. In this video, Mike Rugnetta of PBS Idea Factory explains how hipsters appropriate the cultural capital of other subcultures and eras.

So you see how, unlike a “pure” subculture, hipsters build their culture by taking the interesting bits from everywhere and leaving what they don’t like. Conservatives do the same thing with political ideologies. Conservatism, unlike libertarianism or Marxism, isn’t really an “-ism.” It’s a disposition; almost, like hipsterism, a posture. It’s an attitude about how more than a rigid system of what. That doesn’t mean conservatives don’t believe in the “what” of things. But this belief is tinged with some degree of irony or caution. This enables conservatives to evaluate and appreciate, yea, appropriate elements of other political systems without actually entering into those subcultures.

Conservatives can identify:

. . . with the liberal concern for democratic openness and inalienable rights . . .

. . . the socialist concern for human welfare . . .

. . . the Lockean appreciation of labor value . . .

. . . the Marxian critique of exploitation and commodification . . .

. . . the capitalistic appreciation of currency and credit . . .

. . . the libertarian concern for individual liberty and skepticism of big government . . .

. . . the Green skepticism of corporate bigness and technocentrism . . .

. . . the technologist‘s concern for solutions that work . . .

. . . the humanist‘s love of truth and free inquiry . . .

. . . the open-minded, scientific curiosity of sociology . . .

. . . the religious openness to divine wisdom . . .

. . . the moralist‘s certainty . . .

. . . and the philosopher‘s skepticism.

Conservatism is able to bring elements of all of these otherwise opposing ideologies together in a remarkable unity, because the conservative disposition is one of caution and integration. It is open to everything and at the same time careful not to get drawn too far in one narrow ideological direction.

The strength of conservatism—that it is not an ideology—is also its weakness. Ideological thought tends to be more passionate, partake of more certitude, and have more devoted followers. It is also more likely to be wrong and produce negative unintended effects, often undermining its own ideals through impatience. Conservatism is more reticent, less concerned with action, more interested in maintaining the good things that already exist than bringing forth new ones. It is not very cohesive as a “movement.”

And certainly every conservative you meet will tend to lean toward some of the above ideologies more than to others. That’s normal human diversity. But by the same token, adherents of these different groups may find that becoming more “conservative” may help them to appreciate and build connections with other groups working toward common ends.

Published by

Holgrave

THOMAS HOLGRAVE is a conservative but not necessarily a hipster. He is the publisher of The Hipster Conservative. He has never read a comic book he liked. He is an occasional theologian who has been known to become quite exercised over questions of Puritan doctrine and practice. Not much else is known about him.

One thought on “How is Being Conservative Like Being a Hipster?”

  1. Or as the aphorism by René Char, often quoted by Hannah Arendt, goes: “Notre héritage n’est précédé d’aucun testament”

React! Reply! Challenge!