It's not saying that feigning 'respect' by being overly-affable is restricted to people starting their own businesses, the author is trying to make the point that it's a cultural phenomenon that permeates everybody these days. The corporate ass-kisser is no different than the 'artist' trying to self-promote: everybody's nose is brown.
What the author seems to be trying to debate is whether this affability, this 'niceness', this lack of egoism and negativity is as a result of people constantly marketing themselves or whether it's a reflection of a shift in our culture overall, and we're just becoming 'nicer'. Or maybe "less apt to upset people" is a better way of putting it. We're still just as apt to be ruthless behind people's backs.
We're a society built on selling things to each other and taking a cut, and using that cut to buy other things from other people selling those other things. What the "Generation Sell" article is touching upon is that 'salesman' mentality is so widespread and ingrained that it has, in the author's opinion, pervaded youth culture. Youth culture which used to be all about rebellion and lashing out against the injustices and conservatism of prior generations, even questioning whether our society has an overall point to it at all, has morphed into a culture of marketing the individual. It's not just about selling material goods (remember, we don't make stuff anymore). It's about selling ideas.
Going back to a point you made, Buck, technology has certainly made marketing one's self easier. We have facebook pages and blogs and so on, media we can use to create an image for the sake of selling 'us', for selling our ideas. Whether that's for profit or just for the sake of, say, fitting in a social group is probably not all that important a distinction in my opinion; either way it's about selling the idea of who we are, what we think and what we do. To echo your last comment, it doesn't really have anything to do with owning one's own business. What the article posits is that because we're so concerned with our image for the sake personal marketability we've become a culture of 'nice' people. Whether real or feigned we go out of our way to not offend.
To put it in other terms I'd like to use this quote:
Is this marketing mentality the RESULT of technology and a lack of privacy/space, or have we created the privacy-invading technology as a tool to help cultivate the marketing mentality in the first place? I think that's more to the point the author is making.I think it’s far more about technology, our culture and not having enough privacy/space
I think the point the author makes about hipsters vs. other youth movements in the past is very prescient. "Hispterism" isn't a counter-cultural movement like hippies, beatniks, punks and grungy malcontents before them. "Hipsterism" at its heart is about buying 'stuff' to FIT IN. The author himself says as much (the text in red is my emphasis):
He moved to Portland not to rebel or dissent but to fit in to the hipster culture. The way hipsters relate is by buying into the hipster culture as a whole. They relate through buying material goods like organic food, yoga pants and Apple computers, and they also relate by buying into 'liberal' ideas and ideals whether they believe in them or not. Being a hipster is not about holding beliefs of a particular sort, it's about a lifestyle and all the material goods and political ideals that are supposed to go with it. It's about relating through what people buy and sell.I’m a bobo [bourgeois bohemian; read: hipster with money] in a hipster-bobo neighborhood — which is pretty much what I was looking for when I moved to Portland in the first place. We’re all into organic food and progressive politics;
I could go on and on about my cynicism for hipsters and the salesman mentality many of us have adopted. At the heart of it I think we still measure our self-worth by how much money and belongings we have but we're so inundated with people hocking material goods that we've moved on to selling ideas, personal images, lifestyles and, figuratively, people as a whole.