Monday, June 13, 2005

The Counterculture Countered

"By the early 21st century, the counterculture's governing ideas of rebelliousness and "cool" have become the "central ideology" of consumerism. Wherever you find capitalism at its most vigorous - as in the marketing of sportswear and pop music - a "rebel sell" philosophy is at work."

These are some interesting ideas that I recently found in Andy Beckett's review of The Rebel Sell: How the Counterculture Became Consumer Culture by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter - which must surely be worth a read.

These two Canadian academics argue in their new book that as Capitalism has switched from the supply of material needs to the provision of personal distinction, it has absorbed much of the discourse of its former opposition and that dissent has itself become commodified. The disciples of No Logo are "outwardly iconoclastic but actually status-seeking and snobbish."

The authors speak of "the society-wide triumph of the logic of the high school". For the past thirty years political rebellion has been steadily transformed into a lifestyle choice (Frida Kahlo as fridge magnet) and an increasingly youth-orientated one at that. This ensures that it is both transient and hopelessly entangled with the urge to acquire short-term prestige.

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