It is well known that the leftist hippies of a previous generation were directly inspired by cranky conservative writers, such as Wendell Berry and J.R.R. Tolkien. What is less well known is that the left-leaning urban hipsters of today partake of much of the unique aesthetic of another conservative writer–G.K. Chesterton. Like Berry, Chesterton eschewed cosmopolitanism and prioritized belonging to a certain place. It just so happened that the place to which Chesterton belonged was suburban London; he did not share Berry’s feeling that dwelling in the capitol was in any way inferior to dwelling in a country home. Not only did Chesterton fail to farm, as Berry does, he did not even work in his own garden, as Tolkien did. He writes of sitting in his garden and watching his gardener work:
The gardener was gardening. I was not gardening. .. It is quite certain that he would not have allowed me to touch the garden if I had gone down on my knees to him.
And it is by no means certain that I should have consented to touch the
garden if he had gone down on his knees to me…
And all the time I was thinking what a shame it was that he was not
sticking his spade into his own garden, instead of mine: he knew about the
earth and the underworld of seeds, the resurrection of Spring and the
flowers that appear in order like a procession marshalled by a herald.
He possessed the garden intellectually and spiritually, while I only
possessed it politically.
Like the hipster farm tourists of today, Chesterton firmly identified with the urban location and the relatively idle social class into which he was born; he also felt a deep ambivalence about hereditary class privilege, and wistfully admired people who work with their hands.
He even cultivated a fascination with the pleasures of local culture and cuisine. In a mock defense of Prohibition, he writes
But the private brews differ very widely; multitudes are quite harmless and some are quite excellent. I know an American university where practically every one of the professors brews his own beer; some of them experimenting in two or three different kinds. But what is especially delightful is this: that with this widespread revival of the old human habit of home-brewing, much of that old human atmosphere that went with it has really reappeared. The professor of the higher metaphysics will be proud of his strong ale; the professor of the lower mathematics (otherwise known as high finance) will allege something more subtle in his milder ale; the professor of moral theology (whose ale I am sure is the strongest of all) will offer to drink all the other dons under the table without any ill effect on the health. Prohibition has to that extent actually worked the good, in spite of so malignantly and murderously willing the evil. And the good is this: the restoration of legitimate praise and pride of the creative crafts of the home.
This being the case, it seems that some of our more ardent supporters might well favour a strong, simple and sweeping policy. Let Congress or Parliament pass a law not only prohibiting fermented liquor, but practically everything else. Let the Government forbid bread, beef, boots, hats and coats; let there be a law against anybody indulging in chalk, cheese, leather, linen, tools, toys, tales, pictures or newspapers. Then, it would seem by serious sociological analogy, all human families will begin vigorously to produce all theses things for themselves; and the youth of the world will really return.
Chesterton wrote a few essays that elaborate more on the beauties of some of the items in his catalog of “goods which ought to be banned”–one essay is about the glories of local cheese, and another concludes with the thrill of locally sourcing chalk. He also wrote something about local wine. Twenty-first century anti-globalists can be divided into two broad camps: a camp of those who rebel against globalization by voting against international coalitions, and a camp of those who rebel against globalization by delighting in microbrews. Chesterton, who co-invented a rather locally oriented political philosophy called Distributism, carried Hipsterism to its logical conclusion.