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The Rebel Sell

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,569 Ratings  ·  174 Reviews
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. An ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published 2006 by Capstone (first published January 1st 2004)
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Cate
Jan 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone currently or formerly involved in "counterculture" movements.
From the time I was about 15 I began wondering why the fashion styles of various counterculture movements seemed to be absorbed by the mainstream (okay, so really I was pissed that the same kid that made fun of me two years before for wearing this or that was now wearing this or that item, only now it was considered "cool"). I later came to the conclusion that most people involved in the counterculture do--the styles had been co-opted by corporate marketing schemes.

Turns out I, along with the r
...more
Szplug
Jul 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada-eh
Joseph Heath is a Canadian academic whose writing I have consistently enjoyed; Andrew Potter, who has subsequently moved to Macleans where he has a column and blogs regularly, by the requirement to churn out a steady stream of short pieces has inevitably wound up being a bit more hit-and-miss: however, IMO their partnership in jointly penning The Rebel Sell worked out splendidly, and I hope that the future might yet contain another book or two that they will approach in the same authorial manner ...more
Andrew
Despite agreeing with nearly all of the main points in this book, "Rebel Sell" was a lousy read. Heath and Potter's arguments are poor and often backed up with little more than assertions, such that even when the reader can see that they are correct about something, one is annoyed by their intellectual dishonesty and flimsy rhetoric. For example, they discuss Malcolm Gladwell's analysis of the concept of “cool”, but unfortunately this theory doesn't mesh with the point they are trying to make. D ...more
Ron
Jul 23, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The authors make some very valid points and ably debunk some of the more fallacious thinking of the left, but the further we read into this book, the more uncomfortable we become. The authors have clearly abandoned their punk roots--and any credibility they may have had--by constructing numerous false arguments based on specious premises. Their logic is flawless for the most part, but errors in data will always lead to the false conclusion that society's problems are merely technical and can thu ...more
Kersplebedeb
it's always fun to read something which combines pop culture and games theory logic, and this book does take both these and tries to use them as weapons against any radical or revolutionary left politics, arguing instead for something like social democracy. The authors make many good points, but they also either misunderstand or dishonestly misrepresent a lot of the cultural politics they are mocking.
David
Jun 27, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an extension of Thomas Frank's thesis in The Conquest of Cool, I think that Nation of Rebels has its merits. What I found most interesting and compelling--the incorporation of theorizing about collective action, Veblen's unfortunately neglected argument about conspicuous consumption and the like--actually seemed quite sobering upon reading the book. I knew what the authors were arguing yet their presentation of the ideas, perhaps because of their "one-sided" character (as some complainers out ...more
Nicole
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awhile ago I saw a postcard on a wall at Loyola for an upcoming lecture about the evils of marketing. Someone had written on the card, "this postcard is marketing." I laughed so hard when I saw that- I've always been frustrated by people who rail against consumer culture but are obviously participating in it themselves. So when this book started out with a story about Adbusters putting out a shoe called "Blackspot" that was supposed to be an anti-brand answer to Nike, Adidas, etc., with the iron ...more
Nick

General Summary

"The Rebel Sell" is a book written by left-wing authors who are very much 'progressive change through legislation' advocates, and who are very much against the entire concept of the counterculture. The authors argue that there is no 'system' or vast international conspiracy, and the idea of counterculture is one which acts contrary to the true needs of society. In effect, they posit that counterculture rebels thwart progressive change by shifting focus in the wrong direction. Mo
...more
Gülüzar
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
herkesin yaptığından başka şeyler yapmak, farklı olmak için ayrıksı giysiler, tarzlar ve tatil yerlerine gitmek bir özgürlük bir isyan hissi yarattı insanlarda. bununla bir karşı-kültür yaratarak sistemin dışına çıkmaya çalıştılar. renkli ve yaratıcı oldular. sistemin dışında isyankar, coşkulu ve başka bir hayat var dediler. peki bunu kapitalizm yedi mi? yemedi, şimdiye kadar girdiği her yaşama uyum sağlamakta ya da kendine uydurmakta pek başarısız olmayan kapitalizm isyankarlar için adidas ayak ...more
ChromaticRat

The authors advocate social change through community organizing, coalitions, scientific research and legislative action. This book is not a guide, though, it is a long rambling rant against countercultural protest.

"...we argue that decades of countercultural rebellion have failed to change anything because the theory of society on which the countercultural idea rests is false...The culture cannot be jammed because there is no such thing as 'the culture' or 'the system'... countercultural rebelli
...more
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Joseph Heath (born 1967) is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto. He also teaches at the School of Public Policy and Governance. He received his bachelor of arts from McGill University, where his teachers included Charles Taylor, and his master of arts and doctor of philosophy degrees are from Northwestern University, where he studied under Thomas A. McCarthy and Jürgen Habermas. ...more
More about Joseph Heath...
“Decades of countercultural rebellion have failed to change anything because the theory of society on which the countercultural idea rests is false. We do not live in the Matrix, nor do we live in the spectacle. The world we live in is in fact much more prosaic. It consists of billions of human beings, each pursuing more or less plausible conceptions of the good, trying to cooperate with one another, and doing so with varying degrees of success. There is no single, overarching system that integrates it all. The culture cannot be jammed because there is no such thing as "the culture" or "the system". There is only a hodge-podge of social institutions, most tentatively thrown together, which distribute the benefits and burdens of social cooperation in ways that sometimes we recognize to be just, but that are usually manifestly inequitable. In a world of this type, countercultural rebellion is not just unhelpful, it is positively counterproductive. Not only does it distract energy and effort away from the sort of initiatives that lead to concrete improvements in people's lives, but it encourages wholesale contempt for such incremental changes.” 3 likes
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