Potter and Heath’s book, The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t Be Jammed, takes an interesting look at North American culture. The authors argue, “Decades of countercultural rebellion have failed to change anything because the theory of society on which the countercultural idea rests is false.”  In other words, they assert that there is no system. And, because there is no system, countercultural rebellion is not effective. Counterculture is not a threat to the system. “What people need to be liberated from is not a specific class that oppresses them or a system of exploitation that imposes poverty upon them. Society controls them by limiting the imagination and suppressing their deepest needs. To escape from this conformity, they must form a counter-culture.”
I’ve often heard the statement “everyone wants to be part of something greater than themselves”. In some ways, this is what counter-culture is all about. Countercultures create the mainstream they rebel against. I’m not totally sold on Potter and Heath’s arguments, however the idea of self-actualization resonates with me and makes sense. At some point in time, almost everyone rebels against something in his or her life. A person must spread their wings to find meaning to their life. So, to do this, people join groups of like people who resonate with their own passions and beliefs. They make decisions that voice their opinions. The rebel creates a counter-culture.
Looking around my house, I see many examples of the rebel sell that Potter and Heath refer to. I have Tom’s shoes, organic food in my refrigerator, all natural cleaning products in my home, and I’m writing this while drinking fair trade coffee. I didn’t buy any of these products because they were popular or because I was making a statement. Rather, I bought them because they were, in my mind, the option that best serves my needs without exploiting others to the same extend as if I’d purchased other items. I am aware that purchasing these items is equivalent to selecting the lesser of two evils. I am aware that my purchase still contributes to consumerism and capitalism. This is the paradox of anti-consumerism.
The market does a great job at responding to consumer demands – that is just great marketing. Marketing influences us all, and we all operate as consumers. We all shop and participate in the greater system. Not only do we participate in this system, but also use the system to compete against one another. It is this same system that we argue generates harm to individuals and the environment. In our society, having more money or material goods than other people is thought to bring happiness. The question we should ask is, how can we change a broken system in a consumer society? We live in culture that enforces mass conformity. So, if we need liberation from this system, where do we go to gain freedom?
 Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t Be Jammed (Toronto: HarperPerennial, 2005), 8
 Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t Be Jammed (Toronto: HarperPerennial, 2005), 31