[FoRK] Clintonism — the heroic age of dot-com entrepreneurship
sdw at lig.net
Sun Jul 22 23:59:34 PDT 2012
> It’s striking. Forty years ago, even 20 years ago, a young person’s first thought, or even second or third thought, was
> certainly not to start a business. That was selling out — an idea that has rather tellingly disappeared from our vocabulary.
> Where did it come from, this change? Less Reaganism, as a former student suggested to me, than Clintonism — the heroic age of
> dot-com entrepreneurship that emerged during the Millennials’ childhood and youth. Add a distrust of large organizations,
> including government, as well as the sense, a legacy of the last decade, that it’s every man for himself.
> Because this isn’t only them. The small business is the idealized social form of our time. Our culture hero is not the artist
> or reformer, not the saint or scientist, but the entrepreneur. (Think of Steve Jobs, our new deity.) Autonomy, adventure,
> imagination: entrepreneurship comprehends all this and more for us. The characteristic art form of our age may be the business
> AND that, I think, is the real meaning of the Millennial affect — which is, like the entrepreneurial ideal, essentially
> everyone’s now. Today’s polite, pleasant personality is, above all, a commercial personality. It is the salesman’s smile and
> hearty handshake, because the customer is always right and you should always keep the customer happy. If you want to get
> ahead, said Benjamin Franklin, the original business guru, make yourself pleasing to others.
> All this is why, unlike those of previous youth cultures, the hipster ethos contains no element of rebellion, rejection or
> dissent — remarkably so, given that countercultural opposition would seem to be essential to the very idea of youth culture.
> That may in turn be why the hipster has proved to be so durable. The heyday of the hippies lasted for all of about two years.
> The punks and slackers held the stage for little more than half a decade each. That’s the nature of rebellion: it needs to
> keep on happening. The punks rejected the mainstream, but they also rejected the previous rejection, hippiedom itself — which,
> by the late ’70s, was something that old people (i.e. 28-year-olds) were into. But hipsters, who’ve been around for 15 years
> or so, appear to have become a durable part of our cultural configuration.
> Or maybe not. These movements always have an economic substrate. The beatniks and hippies — love, ecstasy, transcendence,
> utopia — were products of the postwar boom. The punks and slackers and devotees of hip-hop — rage, angst, nihilism, withdrawal
> — arose within the long stagnation that lasted from the early ’70s to the early ’90s. The hipsters were born in the dot-com
> boom and flourished in the real estate bubble.
> Affability is a commercial virtue, but it is also the affect of people who feel themselves to be living in a fundamentally
> agreeable society. Already, the makings of a new youth culture may be locking into place.
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