Welcome to Cafe Society
An Anthropological Look At Community & Society
Today we’re relaunching Something To Look Forward To (STLFT) as Cafe Society, a weekly magazine on the intersection of community and society — an anthropological look at the underpinnings of what makes the world tick. Society from a sociological perspective.
Cafe Society is Vanity Fair meets Ben Thompson’s Stratechery, real in-depth sociological & business analysis about our culture.
Going forward, Cafe Society will consist of two types of posts:
Once A Month - Dinner Discussions:
We’re keeping the best of our previous in-depth analysis, and rebranding them as Dinner Discussion pieces — some past examples are why Soho House has had trouble scaling its community (and why we think miniclubs are the future), Possibility-As-A-Product: Superbad, Clubhouse & the Inciting Incident, Gatekeepers & The Wing, Inclusive Exclusivity, Sofar Sounds & Self-Cancelling Greek Life, Ford Bronco, Blockbuster & Nostalgia Porn For A Simpler World and Amsterdam’s Radical Anarchist White Bikes & Community Hobbyists.
Coming up we have Dinner Discussions on the unbundling of the neighborhood community, the participatory & community nature of conspiracy theories & cults like QAnon, NXIVM and Scientology and a deep dive on Soho House and the illusion of exclusivity.
Every Thursday - Quick Bites:
We’re adding an additional, weekly digest that we’re calling Quick Bites — our community concepts in the wild, 500 word analyses of a business, cultural institution or person and the relevant community concept they demonstrate. Coming up we’re going to be talking about how SoulCycle’s misunderstanding of exclusivity has lead to their stagnation, how the famous Paris bookshop Shakespeare & Co has let aspiring writers crash on cots among the books for the past 30+ years, and the amazing San Sebastian eating clubs that are 100% participatory, honor system run shared kitchen & membership clubs still around after 150 years.
Why Cafe Society? Our original name, Something To Look Forward To, was a play on the complaint we heard most often in the first few weeks of quarantine - not having anything to look forward to in our social lives anymore. It was good for our quarantine experimentation, but we wanted to come up with a name that better encompassed the content we were going to be doubling down on going forward.
We loved the multilayered history behind the term Cafe Society. Its origin was in reference to the men and women in the 30s and 40s who gathered in fashionable cafés and restaurants in New York, Paris and London often attending each other’s private dinners & balls. During that time much of the upper class started to live and entertain “semi-publicly” in that era’s new restaurants, hotels and cafes. In the 60s the phrase came to be associated with the congregating of artists and intellectuals and coffee house talk, sociability and intellectual exchange, all values that we’re trying to bring back at Maxwell Social as we prepare to launch our first social club post pandemic.
Equally important is the history of the term related to our wider goal of diversity and inclusion at Maxwell, while not ever taking ourselves too seriously — Cafe Society was the name of the first integrated nightclub in the United States, launched in 1938 by Barney Josephson with a goal to provide an antidote to the stuffy norm of upper crust nightlife. He chose the name specifically to mock the previous definition of Cafe Society I just laid out for you — an irreverent man after our own heart.
But perhaps most importantly, Cafe Society was the name of a one edition publication by our very own namesake, Elsa Maxwell, which was once described as a “foreshadowing of Vanity Fair.”
As we build Maxwell, we want Cafe Society to be a community for the types of people who look at what we’re doing and go “I want to build a Maxwell in my city.” We want to build a community of people who nerd out about community through this newsletter — if you have been tinkering with a social app idea, if you debate with your friends whether Path was just before it’s time, or about the future of Clubhouse this newsletter is for you. If you’ve thought about starting your own social club or if you’ve discussed with friends why CrossFit is so cult-y this newsletter is for you. If you’re secretly fascinated by conspiracy theories and the communities that advance them and have watched every Scientology documentary, this is the newsletter for you. And if you’ve wondered why your girlfriend speaks about her SoulCycle experience in such reverent terms or if you started your own dinner party series this is the newsletter for you. We want this to be a home for people who read a Vanity Fair article, enjoy it but ask why — what underlying society systems drove that cultural behavior.
I hope you’ll join us on this ride.
David & the Maxwell Social Team