What would a counter-conduct of neoliberalism be? Of course one could refuse to maximize one’s human capital, drop out, etc., but barring a trust fund one needs to work to survive. Neoliberalism is perhaps defined by its ability to encapsulate its outside. All DIY projects, escapes into local communities, are rebranded as micro-entrepreneurs. Irony becomes just another branding ethos. Enter the hipster. The hippy and the punk were counter-conducts, the hipster is what is left of counter-conducts when they are no longer counter, but become part of self-marketing.
I think that assessment (from this post by Jason Read) is right. I also wonder, and this is directed mainly at myself, whether persisting in talking about the “hipster” extends neoliberalism’s recuperative power precisely by seeming to exaggerate the significance of hipsterdom. “Hipsters” — the individuals struggling to make meaning out of their life — must be differentiated from “hipsterdom,” the collective sense of what their struggles constitute, how they are perceived abstractly. Hipsterdom is what I think of “hipsters” (rather than the specific things me and the people I know) are doing.
Hipsterdom (understood as the expression of neoliberalism’s power to assimilate critique and turn it to its own account) seems to work by galvanizing contempt for itself, by seeming perniciously viral, omnipresent, irresistible. The critique of hipsterdom assures the most cynical interpretation of “hipsters” (always inevitably) inadequate attempts at resistance; the critique may do as much to recast resistance as entrepreneurship as the practices themselves. People don’t perceive themselves to be playing the “hipster” game, but it is imputed to them after the fact, not as individuals so much as entire neighborhoods or demographics are impugned. The individuals are interpolated as pawns in this game, and no move they make can’t be assimilated to it. That is the same assimilative gesture as neoliberalism makes — the critique is a neoliberalist practice even under the auspices of being a critique of neoliberalism.