The Rebel Sell: How the Counter Culture Became Consumer Culture

How different is counter culture to consumer culture? Is it different at all?

Heath and Potter analyse counter culture and smartly identify that in searching for identity and definition through rebellion (ie not belonging to a certain group) counter cultures simply ‘feed the flames’ of consumer culture by creating a whole new set of goods for ‘rebel consumers’.

Even the ‘bible’ of the antiglobalisation movement, No Logo, essentially acts as a how-to manual for how people might influence corporate behaviour – not as citizens but as ‘better’ consumers.

‘There are essentially two ways of organising a modern economy: either a system of centralised, bureaucratic production (such as was found in the former Soviet Union), or else a decentralised system, in which producers coordinate their efforts through market exchange.’ (Heath, J. and Potter, A. 2006: 333)

The authors identify that our culture has come to require a market exchange, and that what left-wing critics often claim to be the flaws of capitalism are actually examples of the market not working as it is supposed to.

If we as individuals want to choose from a range of lifestyle opportunities, then there has to be a market within which there is choice. And how do individuals know which lifestyle they might want to subscribe to or align themselves with? Brand.

An explosive rejection of the myth of the counterculture in the most provocative book since No Logo . In this wide–ranging and perceptive work of cultural criticism, Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter shatter the central myth of radical political, economic and cultural thinking. The idea of a counterculture – that is, a world outside of the consumer dominated one that encompasses us – pervades everything from the anti–globalisation movement to feminism and environmentalism. And the idea that mocking the system, or trying to ‘jam’ it so it will collapse, they argue, is not only counterproductive but has helped to create the very consumer society that radicals oppose. In a lively blend of pop culture, history and philosophical analysis, Heath and Potter offer a startlingly clear picture of what a concern for social justice might look like without the confusion of the counterculture obsession with being different.

Heath, J. and Potter, A. (2006), The Rebel Sell: How the Counter Culture Became Consumer Culture, Chichester: Capstone.



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