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The Rebel Sell: How the Counter Culture Became Consumer Culture Paperback – 17 Feb 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Capstone (17 Feb. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841126551
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841126555
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 461,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"...a brave book... presented with great briskness and confidence..." (The Guardian, June 4 2005)

a compelling read, proposing ways for us serfs to combat the brandlords (Focus, August 2005)

" a lively read, with enough humour to keep the more theoretical stretches of its argument interesting." (Economist.com, September 2006)

"best surprise of the year" (The Irish Times, December 2006)



a brave book presented with great briskness and confidence (The Guardian, June 4 th 2005)

a compelling read, proposing ways for us serfs to combat the brandlords (Focus, August 2005)

" a lively read, with enough humour to keep the more theoretical stretches of its argument interesting." (Economist.com, September 2006) 

"best surprise of the year" (The Irish Times, December 2006)

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

'COUNTERCULTURE HAS ALMOST COMPLETELY REPLACED SOCIALISM AS THE BASIS OF RADICAL POLITICAL THOUGHT'
With the incredible popularity of Michael Moore's books and movies, and the continuing success of anti-consumer critiques like ADBUSTERS magazine and Naomi Klein's NO LOGO, it is hard to ignore the growing tide of resistance to the corporate-dominated world. But do these vocal opponents of the status quo offer us a real political alternative?
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.

Inside This Book

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Early on the morning of April 8, 1994, the electrician arrived to start work on a new security system being installed at an upscale home overlooking Lake Washington, just north of Seattle. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The two authors take on a range of counter-cultural tropes that finds expression in many coffeehouse critiques of capitalism. It is not because the authors wish to defend capitalism per se. They are concerned with bad analysis of the problem because a bad analysis is a poor foundation for political action.

It's important to realize that this book makes more than just the point that radical chic becomes a brand - think Che Guevara T-shirts and the like. This is true enough. Capitalism seeks a marketing opportunity as bees to pollen. Guy Fawkes masks are de rigueur at any protest: sure enough Time Warner owns the rights to the image and get that little bit richer when someone buys a mask on the way to a protest. And someone somewhere is making a tidy little profit churning them out. But that is not all the authors have to say.

First and foremost, some rhetorical clutter is cleared away. Some of the left at least seems to glamourise criminality and violence (the example that comes to my mind is the reaction among some commentators to the 2011 riots in England). There is a difference between dissent and deviance. If we are all deviants, refused to get a job, trash things, raise hell etc. then how is the rubbish going to be cleared and potholes fixed? And, needless to say, who would produce the stuff rioters like to loot.

Then it gets down to the nitty-gritty, the bad analysis of what drives capitalism. The counter-culture would have it that we are bunch of zombie consumers, forced to buy things we don't want by the insidious power of advertising.

There is no way of course no way such a contention can be falsified and for this reason - if nothing else - it has a superficial plausibility. But this is crass theory of human motivation to say the least.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Nov. 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just when you think the posties are going to take over the planet, this book makes a compelling case for a return to real politics. I disagree with the reviewer who regards this as a rehashed version of the idea of the 'co-optation' of the cool in the production of mass-culture. Despite the title, I did not understand this book to be arguing that the counter-cultural movement has been "co-opted" by consumerism. Rather, the counter-cultural movement was always the vanguard of consumerism, it was its most perfect manifestation. "Co-option" is the term that people like Naomi Klein use to differentiate her own consumption patterns from the vulgar masses, whereas these guys are arguing that 'co-optation' is really the a keyword for those who are engaged in competitive consumption.
Anyway, I found the political message a refreshing one, and I think, and well worth reading. True enough, it is kind of written in the pop-style of No Logo, but that is perfectly consitent with their own arguments.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Goddard on 14 July 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book disappointing and admirable in almost equal measure.

First the good points. The topic itself is an important one and is addressed with enthusiasm and humour. Puncturing the self-delusions of middle-class lifestyle radicals is a healthy exercise and one that can be much enjoyed. The authors have a good feel for some of the main parameters of popular culture and the counter-cultural elements within it. This allows them to discuss the topic in a way that many young (and not so young) followers of popular culture and its counter-cultural elements will be able to engage with. They make many cogent points about the essential elitism and snobbery at the heart of many 'alternative' consumption patterns. They puncture a lot of balloons and many readers new to this subject will find themselves provoked, rewarded and enlightened in, one hopes, helpful ways. I certainly was and I already know a lot about some of the subjects covered.

Still, the book isn't without its flaws and some of them are major. Firstly, the authors' knowledge of social theory before WW2 is patchy. You would think that very few thinkers before then had tackled the tensions between mass culture and individual freedom. Rousseau is given an airing and the authors are right to locate the ideas of Thorstein Veblen at the heart of their critique. Veblen has much to say that is clearly relevant here. However, it was easy to spot the gaps. To take just one example, John Stuart Mill, in 'On Liberty', dealt with many of the issues addressed here quite differently and much more deeply (mind you, he would have challenged their easy complacency about social conformism). The authors could have profited from deeper thinking and reading. Indeed, this is reflected in the style of their analysis.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By David Bartram on 1 May 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a brilliant book. For those of us who fancy ourselves "alternative" - but primarily because we imagine we are too smart to get caught in conventional thinking - reading this book is a bit of a humbling experience. The idea that the counterculture is a marketing tool is not exactly original - but Heath and Potter extend that sort of critique in a multitude of directions: complementary medicine, exotic tourism, and a number of dubious pseudo-leftist critiques of 'mass society.'
There are a couple of weak points: I think they are naive about the impact and operations of the WTO, in particular. But on the whole it is extremely insightful. Very enjoyable in particular for the repeated skewering of the smug Naomi Klein...
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