bits and pieces of clouds, ether, maybe even ideas

What’s Up with Rob Bell? | Theoblogy

What’s Up with Rob Bell? | Theoblogy.

interesting piece on rob bell ‘posture’ to the calvinistas, is there something to learn about how not to waste a lot of energy on fighting within the bubble?


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – NY Times Health Information

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – NY Times Health Information.

Your Brain on Computers – Series – The New York Times

YouTube – North Points iBand

How to Avoid Holiday Family Fights | Real Simple

How to Avoid Holiday Family Fights | Real Simple.

The “Constructive” Criticizer

“Everyone’s a child at Christmas,” the saying goes. At Thanksgiving, however, everyone simply acts like one—petulant, complaining, unhelpful, boastful—as they all assume their prescribed roles. (You, of course, are perfect.) No matter how mature your relatives may be in everyday life, when thrown together in an old, familiar situation, they regress—and their “issues” take center stage. Why? Experience has taught them that this behavior succeeds in getting people to focus on them and their agendas, says Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families ($16,

While you can’t control the actions of your role-playing relatives, you can at least control your own reactions. Here, authorities on etiquette and family dynamics offer strategies for handling a tableful of problem personalities. As for you, just keep up the good work.

Often heard saying: “When I was in your situation, I knew exactly what I had to do.”
The offense: Gives you unsolicited advice about everything from raising your kids to raising your hemline.
Your course of action: “The criticizer relies on his ability to bait you,” says Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies ($22, Don’t take the bait: Thank him, point out facts he may have overlooked, and move on. If he keeps offering barbed comments disguised as advice, Caroline Tiger, author of How to Behave ($15,, suggests cutting him off with a breezy “Don’t worry about me—I’m fine!”

The Slacker

Often heard saying: “Yup, just a sec…I’ll be riiiight in.”
The offense: Refuses to help with the cooking, cleaning, child care, or even candle-lighting.
Your course of action: “Entertain the possibility that this person doesn’t realize anyone needs help, or perhaps he’s worried that if he were given a task to complete, he’d fail,” says Tiger. Give him precise instructions, something like “Vincent, it would be a great help if you went ahead and started rinsing the dishes. Let me get you an apron.”

The Cheerleader

Often heard saying: Anything with exclamation points. “Hey, guys! Let’s bundle up and go caroling in the snow!”
The offense: Hurls herself into the holiday spirit, donning seasonal sweaters with more doodads than a junk drawer.
Your course of action: If you’re not in the mood or if her joyousness feels forced, the cheerleader can be extremely irritating, says Fox. Don’t attempt to dampen her good cheer (she likes being the center of attention), but don’t let her cow you into wearing felt antlers to the table, either. Just keep your distance.


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Often heard saying: “The Feds said the raid could not have gone down without my tip.”
The offense: Chronically oversells achievements, work situations, children’s accomplishments, size of fish caught.
Your course of action: “It’s rude to embarrass a guest who might be exaggerating due to feeling insecure,” says Tiger. “A little hyperbole on his part isn’t too much for you to endure if it makes him feel more comfortable.” Besides, everyone else at the table probably sees right through him, too, points out Barry Greenwald, Ph.D., associate professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Martyr

Often heard saying: Nothing. She’s still in the kitchen, slaving away over a hot stove.
The offense: Lets everyone know just how many potatoes she had to peel—and shows the blisters to prove it.
Your course of action: When she begins listing her suppertime sacrifices, interrupt with “And that is why you deserve to relax for the evening.” All you can do is ask if she needs help—if only to assure yourself that you tried. “She is obviously getting something she needs out of this, be it satisfaction or superiority,” says Tiger.

The Passive-Aggressor

Often heard saying: “Whatever you think is best.”
The offense: Follows every shred of opinion with a question mark. Knows what she wants but tells you after the fact.
Your course of action: “This person is wounded because you haven”t been able to read her mind,” says Greenwald. Her behavior is a subtle manipulative device that she is probably totally unaware of. Get past the after-the-fact guilt and ask her to be clear the next time. Say something along the lines of “If you let me know next year what kind of pie you prefer, I’ll put it on the menu.”

The Oversharer

Often heard saying: “The doctor doesn’t know what it is, but it itches like a mother…want to see?”
The offense: Passes around gory details like so many candied yams. Doesn’t know what is appropriate table talk.
Your course of action: “Often this person makes many social blunders and believes people want to know what he has been through,” Greenwald says. Gently change the subject. Tiger suggests offering a related topic, such as “I hear sciatica can be very uncomfortable—especially when you’re pregnant. Grace, when is your daughter-in-law due?”


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Often heard saying: “Help! My string beans are touching the gravy!”
The offense: Makes it known that nothing is right—or as good as it was in December 1984. Complains about everything from the fork tines to the figgy pudding.
Your course of action: “Most malcontents are not a threat and don’t require you to do anything but continue being your usual friendly and polite self,” says Fox. They play the victim role as a way to get attention. Disregard their attempts to get you to share their foul mood, she advises.

The Bully

Often heard saying: “Everyone knows you got the beauty and your brother got the brains.”
The offense: Doesn’t pick on people his own size. Hurts others’ feelings.
Your course of action: The bully uses mockery as a way of connecting with others. Don’t play his game—he probably has an arsenal of experience dating back to his days of milk-money thievery. But do stand up for yourself, and don’t back down. Fox suggests using humor to make light of his seriousness: “And you obviously got the charm.”

The Busybody

Often heard saying: “Got a bun in the oven yet?”
The offense: Annually asks when you are going to get a man, get married, get pregnant, or get a life.
Your course of action: The busybody wants to feel superior to you by making you feel insecure. In response to her nosy inquiries, ask politely why she is asking—and smile, advises Fox. This usually embarrasses the busybody enough to make her drop the question. Sarcasm also works, says Tiger. Simply look aghast, pause, and reply, “Oh, my gosh, I forgot!” Then move on.

The Pontificator

Often heard saying: “Just a second, dear—I’m not finished making my point. As I was saying…”
The offense: Dominates the conversation. Doesn’t let anyone get a word in edgewise.
Your course of action: This person finds himself fascinating, never mind what others think. “Seat him near those who will be least affected by his constant drivel—children, for example,” says Tiger. Steer the conversation away from topics he typically waxes poetic about and toward ones that somebody else is expert in.


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Often heard saying: “That’s not what I heard.”
The offense: Spreads family “secrets” like butter on bread.
Your course of action: “Gossip is unavoidable and, for the most part, benign,” says Fox. “It’s just everyone’s way of showing they’re interested in other people.“ There’s no need to scold guests for livening up the conversation with a few juicy details. If someone’s gossip is extreme and mean-spirited, however, think about not inviting the infectious person next year, Greenwald says.

The Emotional Wreck

Often heard saying: “I just need closure.”
The offense: Goes to pieces whenever the family comes together.
Your course of action: Give this person a chance to vent before you all sit down to supper. Assure him that you know he is going through a difficult time, and say that you want to hear all about it, Covey suggests. Let him know you are free to listen anytime you’re able to give him your full attention—in other words, not between the soup and salad courses.

The Grinch

Often heard saying: “Kids, don’t get too comfortable—this is just a pit stop.“
The offense: Hates everything. Doesn’t get that whole “quality time” thing. Prefers the game on TV to the gathering in the next room.
Your course of action: Let him know he can RSVP with a no, “since I know how hard these kinds of get-togethers can be for you.” If you want to spend time with him that day, try a gentle plea, like “I’d love to catch up with you—how about turning off the game and going for a quick walk?” Specify an activity with a time limit.

The Drunk Uncle

Often heard saying: “Less mixer, more liquor.”
The offense: Makes it tempting to switch to sparkling cider for the sake of a peaceful dinner.
Your course of action: Communicate ahead of time that drinking will be limited this year, Covey says. Ask specifically for this person’s cooperation. If he insists on getting drunk, take him aside and ask that his drinking be done elsewhere. In this situation, you might try having someone with influence over him—his wife, his father—step in and negotiate. Most important, says Fox, make sure he gets home safely. Arrange for transportation if necessary.


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Non sequiturs have their moments: They’re invaluable as a not-so-subtle way to steer conversation away from the brink of a family brawl. Just remember that changing the subject is an art form, requiring balance and awareness. “Be careful not to do it without reason or without letting the other person finish what he was trying to say,” Sue Fox warns, or you risk being labeled the one who barely listens. Asking a question is usually effective—other uncomfortable family members will probably jump at the chance to talk about something else. Some ideas:

  • Ask if anyone is up for a movie after dinner, then list the ones you’ve been dying to see. Someone will surely volunteer a suggestion of his own, sparking further discussion, even if you never get around to going.
  • Think of something that has happened to you in the last few months that you can announce to the table. Promotions, awards your kids have won, or recent home improvements, however small, are all fair game. (Don’t tread into braggart territory, however.)
  • Start talking about a relative who is not at the gathering. Nothing nasty—just ask if anyone has news about that person.
  • Comment on the food. Ask where the chef found the recipe or what kind of wine you’re drinking.
  • The last resort: Accidentally catapult a spoonful of peas across the table. “Everyone’s eyes will be on you, instead of on the person who’s being rude or inappropriate,” Caroline Tiger says.

Was it for this? – The Irish Times – Thu, Nov 18, 2010

Was it for this? – The Irish Times – Thu, Nov 18, 2010.

Was it for this?

The Irish Times – Thursday, November 18, 2010IT MAY seem strange to some that The Irish Times would ask whether this is what the men of 1916 died for: a bailout from the German chancellor with a few shillings of sympathy from the British chancellor on the side. There is the shame of it all. Having obtained our political independence from Britain to be the masters of our own affairs, we have now surrendered our sovereignty to the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Their representatives ride into Merrion Street today.

Fianna Fáil has sometimes served Ireland very well, sometimes very badly. Even in its worst times, however, it retained some respect for its underlying commitment that the Irish should control their own destinies. It lists among its primary aims the commitment “to maintain the status of Ireland as a sovereign State”. Its founder, Eamon de Valera, in his inaugural address to his new party in 1926, spoke of “the inalienability of national sovereignty” as being fundamental to its beliefs. The Republican Party’s ideals are in tatters now.

The Irish people do not need to be told that, especially for small nations, there is no such thing as absolute sovereignty. We know very well that we have made our independence more meaningful by sharing it with our European neighbours. We are not naive enough to think that this State ever can, or ever could, take large decisions in isolation from the rest of the world. What we do expect, however, is that those decisions will still be our own. A nation’s independence is defined by the choices it can make for itself.

Irish history makes the loss of that sense of choice all the more shameful. The desire to be a sovereign people runs like a seam through all the struggles of the last 200 years. “Self-determination” is a phrase that echoes from the United Irishmen to the Belfast Agreement. It continues to have a genuine resonance for most Irish people today.

The true ignominy of our current situation is not that our sovereignty has been taken away from us, it is that we ourselves have squandered it. Let us not seek to assuage our sense of shame in the comforting illusion that powerful nations in Europe are conspiring to become our masters. We are, after all, no great prize for any would-be overlord now. No rational European would willingly take on the task of cleaning up the mess we have made. It is the incompetence of the governments we ourselves elected that has so deeply compromised our capacity to make our own decisions.

They did so, let us recall, from a period when Irish sovereignty had never been stronger. Our national debt was negligible. The mass emigration that had mocked our claims to be a people in control of our own destiny was reversed. A genuine act of national self-determination had occurred in 1998 when both parts of the island voted to accept the Belfast Agreement. The sense of failure and inferiority had been banished, we thought, for good.

To drag this State down from those heights and make it again subject to the decisions of others is an achievement that will not soon be forgiven. It must mark, surely, the ignominious end of a failed administration.

Spreading the real news from Ireland – The Irish Times – Thu, Nov 18, 2010

Political Code Language | Out of Ur | Conversations for Ministry Leaders

Political Code Language | Out of Ur | Conversations for Ministry Leaders.

Political Code Language

Are political sticks and stones affecting the church?

There is a sinister trend gaining momentum in the days leading up to the mid-term elections. It is not initially obvious to many of us, but it has significant implications for the American church. The code language associated with this trend goes unnoticed by many majority-culture Christians despite how alienating it can be to our non-white brothers and sisters. It is a trend that both threatens devastating consequences to the unity of the church and presents powerful opportunities for Gospel witness to a cynical country.

Different code words summarize this trend: us, ours, mine—the possessive language many politicians and pundits use to describe the need to retake America. The aim of this trend is to identify the insiders and outsiders, those on the right and wrong side of American history. This language hearkens back to an ideal America when things were as they should be now.

Pamela Geller, an influential blogger and speaker and a major force behind the opposition to the so-called ground zero mosque, put some of these code words to work in a recent interview with The New York Times. “Growing up as the sort of tail end of the baby boomers, there was this feeling of invincibility in America…We were free. The good guys won. The good cop is on the beat. I certainly don’t get a sense of that anymore.”

Immigration and Islam have also become code words during this campaign season, another indication of this trend of alienation. A few politicians have exploited fears by some in the majority culture and have blurred the lines between legitimate security concerns and ugly prejudices.

Take for example a recent campaign ad by Sharron Angle, Nevada’s Republican senate candidate. The ad warns of “waves of illegal aliens streaming across our border, joining violent gangs, forcing families to live in fear,” while men understood to be gangbangers and thugs glare menacingly at the camera. If the ad doesn’t immediately strike you as pandering to racial and ethnic stereotypes, try imagining yourself as an American of Mexican descent. It seems that in this politician’s view of America you (Mexicans) are causing normal (white) families to live in fear.

An ad attacking West Virginia Representative Nick Rahall shows how slippery this trend can be. The ad shows the representative talking about chairing “a nationwide group dedicated to mobilizing Arab Americans in bringing light to those issues we care about.” The ad ends with a screen encouraging the viewer to call Representative Rahall to “tell him to stand with West Virginians.” Is it not possible to be both a West Virginian and an Arab American?

How are our churches affected by this code language about who is and is not a real American? For the thousands of non-white churches throughout the country the examples above can come across as unwelcoming at best and racist at worst. Language and images meant to drum up votes for desperate politicians communicate powerful messages about who is valuable in America and who is unwelcomed. Speeches about returning to an idealized America of yesteryear gloss over the painful experience of many non-white citizens who look to the future rather than the past for inspiration.

Majority-culture Christians who borrow this insider/outsider language are reinforcing an ideology at odds with the Gospel. The unity between Christians that Jesus prays for in John’s Gospel is meant to demonstrate the Father’s love to the watching world. This unity must include American churches of disparate cultures, races, and ethnicities. Aligning ourselves with politics and ideologies that seek to divide is no benefit to our Gospel witness.

How can those of us in the majority culture proceed in these divisive days in a way that leads to greater unity within Christ’s body? First, let’s attempt to begin seeing and hearing from the perspective of our non-white Christian family. This will be much easier if we are in meaningful relationships with members of our multi-ethnic Christian family. Even if those relationships are few, we can begin listening with a critical ear and seeing through a broader lens.

Second, we can be specific when describing our political stances. Rather than succumbing to the vague and ostracizing language used by both political parties, we can instead explain why certain issues matter to us as Christians. It is inevitable in the incredibly diverse American church that individual Christians will hold different opinions and values. It is not inevitable, however, that these varied perspectives must divide us.

Finally, on November 3, regardless of the political winners and losers, we can be crystal clear that our hope lies not with any politician, ideology, or political platform. Our allegiance is only to God and our commitment is to one another. For a society gagging on its own cynicism, such humble unity could be a powerful cure.

David Swanson is the pastor of New Community Covenant Church [Bronzeville] on Chicago’s South Side and a regular contributor to Out of Ur. Read more from David at his blog, Signs of Life.

10 Commandments of Scripture Interpretation | Out of Ur | Conversations for Ministry Leaders

10 Commandments of Scripture Interpretation | Out of Ur | Conversations for Ministry Leaders.

November 15, 2010

10 Commandments of Scripture Interpretation

Skye Jethani’s simple guidelines for engaging the Bible and avoiding unhelpful controversy.

I. You shall not make for yourself an idol out of Scripture.

This is a particular temptation among evangelicals who hold a very high view of Scripture. We forget that our highest calling is not to have a relationship with the Bible but with Jesus Christ about whom the Bible testifies. (John 5:39)

II. You shall honor the Scriptures as sufficient.

We have a common temptation to get “behind the text” or discover what “really happened.” While archeology and other disciplines are incredibly important, we must not forget that what God has given in the Scriptures is enough for life and faith.

III. You shall remember the metanarrative and keep it wholly.

In my experience more Christians can recap the meta-narrative of the Star Wars saga than can recap the biblical meta-narrative. It’s not enough to know the stories and events in the Bible. We must know how they fit together to tell a single story.

IV. You shall honor the Church as the recipient and the guardian of the Scriptures

The books and letters in the Bible, with a few exceptions, were not written to individuals but to communities of believers. We must be careful not to read everything through the lenses of Western individualism. And we are wise to listen to how Christians in ages past have understood the teachings of Scripture.

V. You shall not neglect the context.

Proof texting (finding verses to make your point), isolating (removing a text from its surrounding material), and synchronizing (taking different gospel accounts of the same event and smashing them together) are all ways of abusing the text and landing on bad interpretations.

VI. You shall not ask questions the text does not want to answer.

Almost every nasty debate about Scripture results from forcing answers from the text it never intended to answer. Debates about creation in Genesis 1 and 2 fall into this category as do most other scientific issues. Avoid a “morbid interest in controversial questions” (1 Tim 6:4).

VII. You shall embrace both the form and content of Scripture as inspired by God.

When teaching the Bible we often retain the content or message but give little attention to the genre or style of the text. We lose something when we teach narrative as didactic truth, or when we ignore the poetic structure and beauty of a Psalm. And there’s a reason God said “You shall not murder” rather than “You will love life.” Do we see that?

VIII. You shall study Scripture for wisdom and not merely knowledge, and never for pride.

I’m really impressed that you’ve memorized 400 verses and took first prize in your Bible Quiz league. Now quit being such a jerk. (1 Cor. 8:1)

IX. You shall exegete your culture and not merely the Scriptures.

The goal is not merely to understand what the Bible said to those who lived centuries ago, but hear it anew today. Proper teaching requires that we bring the Word of God into our world and help people feel the gravity and beauty of it for their lives and context.

X. You shall remember that the simplest interpretation is usually, but not always, correct.

There is no Bible Code! And if you have to do all kinds of contortions with Scripture to get it to fit into your theological framework, you’re probably guilty of something bad. Paradoxes abound in Scripture. If your theology doesn’t allow for that kind of ambiguity and mystery I suggest you try Deism.

Skye Jethani is senior editor of Leadership JournalOut of Ur, andCatalyst Leadership. He is the author of The Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity, and he blogs regularly at The Huffington Post and

The Sociology of the Hipster – Essay –

The Sociology of the Hipster – Essay –

The Hipster in the Mirror

A  year ago, my colleagues and I started to investigate the contemporary hipster. What was the “hipster,” and what did it mean to be one? It was a puzzle. No one, it seemed, thought of himself as a hipster, and when someone called you a hipster, the term was an insult. Paradoxically, those who used the insult were themselves often said to resemble hipsters — they wore the skinny jeans and big eyeglasses, gathered in tiny enclaves in big cities, and looked down on mainstream fashions and “tourists.” Most puzzling was how rattled sensible, down-to-earth people became when we posed hipster-themed questions. When we announced a public debate on hipsterism, I received e-mail messages both furious and plaintive. Normally inquisitive people protested that there could be no answer and no definition. Maybe hipsters didn’t exist! The responses were more impassioned than those we’d had in our discussions on health care, young conservatives and feminism. And perfectly blameless individuals began flagellating themselves: “Am I a hipster?”

I wondered if I could guess the root of their pain. It’s a superficial topic, yet it seemed that so much was at stake. Why? Because struggles over taste (and “taste” is the hipster’s primary currency) are never only about taste. I began to wish that everyone I talked to had read just one book to give these fraught debates a frame: “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste,” by Pierre Bourdieu.

A French sociologist who died in 2002 at age 71, Bourdieu is sometimes wrongly associated with postmodern philosophers. But he did share with other post-1968 French thinkers a wish to show that lofty philosophical ideals couldn’t be separated from the conflicts of everyday life. Subculture had not been his area, precisely, but neither would hipsters have been beneath his notice.

He came from a family of peasants in the foothills of the Pyrenees. His father was elevated by a job in the village post office — although he always emphasized that he had attained his position by being neither better nor different. Pierre, as a child, was elevated yet more drastically by the school system. He so distinguished himself in the classroom that he was carried to studies at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. This was the pinnacle of French intellect, the path of Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

Yet Bourdieu chose to make it his life’s work to debunk the powerful classes’ pretensions that they were more deserving of authority or wealth than those below. He aimed his critiques first at his own class of elites — professors and intellectuals — then at the media, the political class and the propertied class.

“Distinction,” published in 1979, was an undisputed masterwork. In it, Bourdieu set out to show the social logic of taste: how admiration for art, appreciation of music, even taste in food, came about for different groups, and how “superior” taste was not the result of an enchanted superiority in scattered individuals.

This may seem a long way from Wellington-booted and trucker-hatted American youth in gentrifying neighborhoods. But Bourdieu’s innovation, applicable here, was to look beyond the traditional trappings of rich or poor to see battles of symbols (like those boots and hats) traversing all society, reinforcing the class structure just as money did.

Over several years in the 1960s, Bourdieu and his researchers surveyed 1,200 people of all classes and mined government data on aspects of French domestic life. They asked, for instance, Which of the following subjects would be most likely to make a beautiful photograph? and offered such choices as a sunset, a girl with a cat or a car crash. From government dietary research, they took data on the classic question: Do you think French people eat too much? The statistical results were striking. The things you prefer — tastes that you like to think of as personal, unique, justified only by sensibility — correspond tightly to defining measures of social class: your profession, your highest degree and your father’s profession.


Mark Greif, a founder of n+1 and an assistant professor at the New School, is the editor, with Kathleen Ross and Dayna Tortorici, of “What Was the Hipster? A Sociological Investigation,” published last month.



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The power of Bourdieu’s statistics was to show how rigid and arbitrary the local conformities were. In American terms, he was like an updater of Thorstein Veblen, who gave us the idea of “conspicuous consumption.” College teachers and artists, unusual in believing that a beautiful photo could be made from a car crash, began to look conditioned to that taste, rather than sophisticated or deep. White-collar workers who defined themselves by their proclivity to eat only light foods — as opposed to farmworkers, who weren’t ashamed to treat themselves to “both cheese and a dessert” — seemed not more refined, but merely more conventional.

Taste is not stable and peaceful, but a means of strategy and competition. Those superior in wealth use it to pretend they are superior in spirit. Groups closer in social class who yet draw their status from different sources use taste and its attainments to disdain one another and get a leg up. These conflicts for social dominance through culture are exactly what drive the dynamics within communities whose members are regarded as hipsters.

Once you take the Bourdieuian view, you can see how hipster neighborhoods are crossroads where young people from different origins, all crammed together, jockey for social gain. One hipster subgroup’s strategy is to disparage others as “liberal arts college grads with too much time on their hands”; the attack is leveled at the children of the upper middle class who move to cities after college with hopes of working in the “creative professions.” These hipsters are instantly declassed, reservoired in abject internships and ignored in the urban hierarchy — but able to use college-taught skills of classification, collection and appreciation to generate a superior body of cultural “cool.”

They, in turn, may malign the “trust fund hipsters.” This challenges the philistine wealthy who, possessed of money but not the nose for culture, convert real capital into “cultural capital” (Bourdieu’s most famous coinage), acquiring subculture as if it were ready-to-wear. (Think of Paris Hilton in her trucker hat.)

Both groups, meanwhile, look down on the couch- surfing, old-clothes-wearing hipsters who seem most authentic but are also often the most socially precarious — the lower-middle-class young, moving up through style, but with no backstop of parental culture or family capital. They are the bartenders and boutique clerks who wait on their well-to-do peers and wealthy tourists. Only on the basis of their cool clothes can they be “superior”: hipster knowledge compensates for economic immobility.

All hipsters play at being the inventors or first adopters of novelties: pride comes from knowing, and deciding, what’s cool in advance of the rest of the world. Yet the habits of hatred and accusation are endemic to hipsters because they feel the weakness of everyone’s position — including their own. Proving that someone is trying desperately to boost himself instantly undoes him as an opponent. He’s a fake, while you are a natural aristocrat of taste. That’s why “He’s not for real, he’s just a hipster” is a potent insult among all the people identifiable as hipsters themselves.

The attempt to analyze the hipster provokes such universal anxiety because it calls everyone’s bluff. And hipsters aren’t the only ones unnerved. Many of us try to justify our privileges by pretending that our superb tastes and intellect prove we deserve them, reflecting our inner superiority. Those below us economically, the reasoning goes, don’t appreciate what we do; similarly, they couldn’t fill our jobs, handle our wealth or survive our difficulties. Of course this is a terrible lie. And Bourdieu devoted his life to exposing it. Those who read him in effect become responsible to him — forced to admit a failure to examine our own lives, down to the seeming trivialities of clothes and distinction that, as Bourdieu revealed, also structure our world.


Mark Greif, a founder of n+1 and an assistant professor at the New School, is the editor, with Kathleen Ross and Dayna Tortorici, of “What Was the Hipster? A Sociological Investigation,” published last month.