The Null Device

What is "bohemian"?

The BBC News Magazine has an article about the shifting meaning of the adjective "bohemian", a word which used to started off describing vagabonds and those beyond the pale of respectable society, shifted via itinerant actors and musicians to refer to self-selected artistic outsiders who rejected bourgeois values and social norms, and now is increasingly used to refer to fashion-conscious types who engage in slightly more trendy modes of consumption (note the rise of "bobos", or "bourgeois bohemians", sometimes provocatively referred to as "White People").
In essence, bohemianism represented a personal, cultural and social reaction to the bourgeois life. And, once the latter was all but swept away by the maelstrom that was the 1960s, the former was doomed, too.
Perhaps we need a word to refer to the "bohemians"-who-aren't-really-bohemians, in that, whilst engaging with culture outside of the feeding trough of the mainstream, they do live a comfortable bourgeois life, with respectable jobs, stable living arrangements and disposable income to spend on accoutrements such as limited-edition trainers, designer glasses, fancy bicycles and Apple products. How about the "avant-bourgeoisie"?

There are 4 comments on "What is "bohemian"?":

Posted by: Wishi Sun Mar 13 17:28:15 2011

"avant-bourgeoisie" has much too positive connotations. How about "fucking hipsters"?

Posted by: acb Sun Mar 13 18:52:37 2011

And what's the alternative? Unpretentiously consuming Coldplay records and TV sitcoms because it's good enough for everybody else and you don't want to be the sort of wanker who's too good for that? Some kind of cultural Jante law?

Posted by: Greg Mon Mar 14 11:54:41 2011

Is there a confusion here between class and culture? It seems like the article is arguing that the bourgeoisie and the bohemians began as distinct socio-economic classes, but over time "bohemian" has come to mean someone that rejects bourgeois culture. That sets up what is only an apparent paradox, because a person can both be a member of a social class and reject its cultural norms: in fact it is almost the job of the young person to do so.

Some working-class teens reject working-class culture too.

Posted by: kstop Mon Mar 14 17:28:40 2011

"Fauxhemian" covers it nicely.

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