A good book to consider in tandem with this one is James Masterson's "The Search for the Real Self." Masterson's thesis is that those with borderline and narcissistic personality disorders have never really had support for the development of real, authentic, core selves. It's but a small leap from there to Christopher Lasch's "The Culture of Narcissism." The idea is that many, and perhaps most, Americans today have that pervasive sense of emptiness, a lack of self.
One of the authors of "Nation of Rebels" admits to having been a punk rocker rebel in a prior phase of life. He then goes on to say that that phase was, he realized upon reflection, an example of the false rebellion that the book talks about. But then, disturbingly, it becomes apparent as one reads the book, that Heath and Potter assume the same lack of self in all members of todays "nation of rebels." In other words, all consumption is based upon false, status, pseudo-rebellious tendencies.
The problem here is that the authors assume that no one buys a BMW in order to have an exciting driving experience, but only to impress the neighbors. They assume that no one buys a home theater in order to simply enjoy movies, but only to have the latest "thing." They would assume that no 20 year old would quit college simply because it wasn't right for him or her, and that the only conceivable reason would be a false sense of rebellion against parents, society, or whatnot.
In other words, they truly seem to believe what they posit early in the book: that real, authentic selves do not exist. In anyone. Talk about psychological projection outward from their own inner circumstances on a doozy of a scale! To that extent, as brilliant as this book is, I suspect that the authors are playing at being deeper, more serious social activists, and are playing at being Canadian philosophy professors, in the same exact way that one of them once played at being a rebel.
The second limitation of the book is the assumption that the authors make that "progressive" politics are a given. If you disagree with that premise, as conservatives, moderates, and many of the countercultural-type liberals that Heath and Potter are attacking in this book would surely do, then the authors have nothing for you. The book collapses into a battle between the authors as Ralph Nader-like diligent old-style liberals, and the standard liberal of the Clinton or Kerry variety. As such, the true audience for this book becomes, in all likelihood, the conservative reader-as-voyeur, as such standard liberal icons as Marcuse, Ellul, Mumford, Laing, Baudrillard, Foucault, and on and on are cleaned and gutted with profound gusto.
I sense this is an important book, and is a bomb thrown into a crowded room. I'm not sure what the results are, or what they will be further down the road. I look forward to how other readers respond.