The Washington Times has a piece by Ryan James Girdusky suggesting that traditionalist conservatives have something to learn from hipsters. And vice versa.

Traditionalist conservatives should emulate hipsters. In many respects, they do certain things better. Hipsters have created a counter-culture vastly opposed to corporatism in exchange for localism, a mixture of 1970s punk rock style and a hippie philosophy with a touch of Robert Nisbet’s communitarianism.

Hate it or love it, Hipsters are more effective and widespread in their rejection of corporate capitalism than anything the right has produced. Yet, their apostasy is doomed to an expiration date because their cultural unity is not based on permanent things or first principles.

More:

In Robert Putnam’s landmark book Bowling Alone, the author makes the case that traditional religion promotes social capital, which is responsible for keeping together families, friendships, and communities. Putnam writes, “Religiosity rivals education as a powerful correlate of most forms of civic engagement.”  Privatized morality does not instill the social capital that traditional religion embodies.

So for all the work of creating the hipster subculture, it will not last, because it is not rooted, as was true for the bohemian subculture of the 1960s. Without faith, there’s no foundation. Without a foundation, a community cannot survive.

In this light, “secular community” may not be an oxymoron, but it is a dangerously tenuous version of community. And this begs the question: how much agreement on first principles does a healthy and viable community require?
Of course, Eliot’s lines suggest that real community is only possible in the context of a shared faith:

What life have you if you have not life together?

There is no life that is not in community,

And no community not lived in praise of GOD.

Much turns on what we mean by this word “community.”

 

 

 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. “So for all the work of creating the hipster subculture, it will not last, because it is not rooted, as was true for the bohemian subculture of the 1960s. Without faith, there’s no foundation. Without a foundation, a community cannot survive.”
    Something key is missing here: the relationship between parish and church. True religion, a true church, understands its rootedness in the parish — or local community. Girdusky’s statement above clearly misses this point. As John Winthrop and his followers understood, the holy covenant depends upon the covenant of neighbors. The ’60’s bohemian subculture did not (speaking generally) explicitly honor local community, so the analogy doesn’t work. The parish/local community is not everything in religion, but it is one important and necessary root of faith. Perhaps what the “traditionalist conservatives” (isn’t that redundant?) Girdusky’s thinking of miss is a religion based on concern for the welfare of their neighbors, regardless of church affiliation, for those neighbors reside in the actual parish that is the local community. Perhaps they preach “love they neighbor” while ignoring the neighbor in deed. Personally, I’d take the act of loving our neighbors before the preaching. But I agree that to sustain true faith, it’s generally necessary to gather in the name of faith.

  2. Much turns on what we mean by this word “GOD.” Old Testament judge and ideological battering ram, Gaia, Great Economist, Allah, or something more vague and personal. Most modern ‘conservatives’ would seem to be in the first camp.

  3. The hipster subculture is planting the seeds for the Faith not by rejection, but by looking for and promoting and purchasing the holistic. The organic foods movement is an outward sign, but a far more important sign is the growing trend towards homebirth, holistic medicine, attachment parenting and similar because as opposed to being dependent on financial success, they’re viable for the poor and working class.

    Agrarianism is a rich man’s game. Whereas home birth and attachment parenting is available to all.

  4. Indeed that is true at this stage of history. I am glad to see homebirth and other more natural and non-modern approaches to life succeed. However, I hope one day agrarianism ceases to be a rich man’s game, and we see agricultural life as viable for the common person yet again.

  5. “How much agreement on first principles does a healthy and viable community require?”

    I wonder if the cart isn’t before the horse here. If Alasdair MacIntyre is right in his postscript to After Virtue to suggest that a moral code is the handmaid of shared practices and institutions, perhaps we should ask not which first principles but which shared practices are required to make up a viable community. There is a qualitative difference between a group of people whose primary first principle is “Eat Local,” and a group of people who are all CSA farmers in the same region.

    I worry, then, about turning faith into a first principle. It may in fact be a necessary condition for community, but inasmuch as faith is a first principle, it is doomed to an expiration date. Faith does not unite so much when it is a principle to which one adheres as when it is a life one lives or, more precisely, a life lived out in oneself. It is not I who live…

  6. Joshua
    I agree, but would go further, more than worrying “about turning faith into a first principle.” The words are “Love thy neighbor,” not “love thy neighbor, as long as he goes to your church.” First principles, by definition, pre-date the church.

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