More on Winnubst and Neo-Liberalism

Here is Robin James speaking to the coolness part, which for the most part I left aside in my response (not least because as soon as mention anything relating to coolness, it invariably becomes uncool):

Based on my work on hipness, I would say pretty conclusively that not everyone can be cool.  Coolness is not equal-opportunity: you can’t pull up your bootstraps, work extra-hard, and pull a come-from-behind win. There are two reasons for this: (1) Hipness is always about establishing a sort of hyper-eliteness. The point is to demonstrate one’s success above and beyond other relatively privileged, aka “successful” individuals. Hipness is only available to already-privileged groups; it seems that “coolness” is similarly rationed. (2) In order for the hipster to seem “avant-garde,” somebody has to stay “primitive.”  Hipsters appropriate “otherness” or “difference”—and even if that one specific mark of “difference” is eventually co-opted, something else has to be the next new, “different” thing. Somebody somewhere has to be “the other” who is “eaten.” So, if Urban Outfitters is shilling “Navajo” prints as the “it” look of the season, this requires actual Navajo (and Native Americans more generally) to be stuck as representatives of the primitive, the non-industrial, the natural, the hand-crafted…or whatever flavor of “different” one wants them to signify. The whole point is that when actual Navajo wear Navajo designs, this is seen as evidence of their “traditional” and “backward” ways, but when white hipsters wear Navajo designs, this is seen as evidence of their successful risk-taking and entrepreneurship. The structural inequality has to be there in order for the white hipster to think s/he is doing something “risky” or “weird.”  The Navajo can’t be “just like us neoliberals,” because then “Navajo” wouldn’t be a sign of “difference,” and an opportunity for whites to demonstrate their “coolness.”