All previous countercultures since you could really begin to speak of a counterculture–I would say, since the Romantics–have been fundamentally grounded in an appeal to authenticity. The Romantics prided themselves on their ability to express pure emotion. The Symbolists–Rimbaud most of all–constantly sought the link to Being, the limit-experiences that break through the surface of daily life. The Surrealists attempted to realize art by using the unconscious (maybe the ultimate appeal to authenticity). The Beats followed the Symbolists, sometimes. The hippies, of course, were a paradigm case: the return to Rousseau, the emphasis on the purity of agriculture. (You could say that the New Left, too, was searching for authenticity in a kind of Frantz Fanonian revolutionary self-realization). The punks ditched society’s rules, exposing its shallowness by bringing forth an animalistic brutality; “evolution is a process too slow to save my soul,” sang Darby Crash. And what is hip-hop but a constant return to the true and real life of the streets from the obfuscation of the white man’s tricknology? (Listen to Brand Nubian for the way this process interacts with Nation of Islam imagery).
Hipsterdom is the first counterculture to arise with and take into account the condition that we, for better or worse, call “postmodernity.” As such, it cannot appeal to authenticity; it plays with surface, with collage, with costume–with everything “superficial.” But of course this could never be innocent while capitalism was around to sell it everything it needed. Thus hipsterdom stopped being a “counter” culture on any substantive level at all: there has almost never been a group of non-mainstream youth so invested in the preservation of the system, for all their Naomi Klein platitudes. Hipster self-hatred is the return of the repressed appeal to authenticity. This means hipsterdom is constantly at odds with itself, unable to resolve the contradiction between its countercultural heritage and its thoroughly capitalized rejection of authenticity. Authenticity, within hipsterdom, is a zombie–dead, yet unkillable, and always threatening.