DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Rebel Rebel

Written by: on March 2, 2017

In their book, Rebel Sell, Heath and Potter argue that, these days, everyone seems to be anti-consumerist – everyone is a rebel – everyone,  it seems, nods in agreement as they watch films like Supersize Me.

However things are not quite what they first appear.

Their argument, in essence, is that rebellion against the system, against the Free Market, against consumerism, serves only to feed consumerism itself.

Consumerism is not ultimately about conformity – we do not ultimately want to conform, we want distinction; we want the things that will set us apart. We want to be “cool”  and “different” – to stand out. And where there is “cool”, there is “uncool”. This feeds into the dissatisfaction of consumerism, the competitive nature of the fight. Not everyone can be cool. For you to be cool, others have to suck. For you be included in the ‘in crowd’, others have to be excluded.

So whether it’s the hippies of the sixties, or the punks, or any other group that rebels against society, rebellion has become one of the strongest forces driving consumer capitalism. Rebellion shows how great and cool you are. The critique of mass society has become a way of selling goods since the sixties.

“Find anyone who is breaking any kind of rule and you have marketing potential.”[1]

“We are fighting for the right to party – that’s all” it’s what it all boils down to.

In the opinion of Heath and Potter, it is not the “system” that is at fault. The Free Market, per se, is not evil. What is needed is to fix the loopholes in the market, to see where the problems lie, and to tackle these, using political and institutional means. The answer, they suggest, is not to dismantle the system or fight against the market, or do away with government and representative democracy. If anything, in the age of globalisation, we need more government not less, they argue. The idea of some decentralised, harmonious utopia is a myth.

“the anti-market rhetoric that continues to dominate left-wing organisations is at best unhelpful, at worst intellectually debilitating. We should strive to perfect the market, not abolish it.”[2]

 

The rebels are wrong, the countercultural movement is misinformed, and they are driving consumerism as much as anyone. Rebellion changes nothing. The system does not care. The market will react and respond to your specific tastes – including rebellion.

 

“Thanks to the myth of counterculture, many of the people who are most opposed to consumerism nevertheless actively participate in the sort of behaviour that drives it.”[3]

 

And here was me thinking I was so cool.

 

[1] Heath, Joseph, and Andrew Potter. The Rebel Sell: How the Counter Culture Became Consumer Culture. Chichester: Capstone, 2006, 131.

[2] Heath and Potter (2006), 341.

[3] Heath and Potter (2006), 133.

About the Author

Geoff Lee

5 responses to “Rebel Rebel”

  1. Just pondering this “Rebellion changes nothing.” True as it just creates another reaction that society ends of accommodating, yet does it change the ethos and rhythms of society? Martin Luther King, Ghandi, etc… were rebels of society and made significant changes. Or did they? Do people that oppose them and their way of thinking just go underground, and resurface in another more passive-aggressive way in society? Would society have shifted without their rebellious, countercultural voices? As I picture myself rebelling against societal injustice, I like to fancy myself making changes. At least don’t tell me otherwise if I’m not.

    • Geoff Lee says:

      I guess rebellion, in this context, is against consumerism and the free market – not wholesale across all areas of life and society.

  2. Mary Walker says:

    ““We are fighting for the right to party – that’s all” it’s what it all boils down to.”
    Geoff, I guess that’s why we need to share the Gospel.
    The one thing that stood out for me in the book was ‘what for?’ If this life is all that matters then who cares if the teens wear orange mohawks?
    To us Yanks, you Brits are really cool!!!

  3. “The rebels are wrong, the countercultural movement is misinformed, and they are driving consumerism as much as anyone. Rebellion changes nothing. The system does not care. The market will react and respond to your specific tastes – including rebellion.”

    Two things come to mind when I read this:

    1. It is imperative that what is defined as a “countercultural movement” is clearly defined. For example if we replaced this term with the womens movement or civil rights movement would this statement still be valid. Both of these movements are viewed by some as countercultural.

    2. The idea that “rebellion” is pointless goes against progressive movements that have brought change in at least American history. The system is controlled by people like the wizard of Oz behind the curtain. I would say the any social unrest they do care about. When the upheaval is done with not only verbal protest but gains traction through definitive action change becomes inevitable. There may still be those who choose to profit off of the exchange but that does not take away from the effort to invoke the change and collective action that forced it into existence.

  4. mm Katy Lines says:

    No matter what everyone else says, Geoff, I still think you’re cool. 😉

    One alternative that Heath & Potter don’t mention much is the mindset of desiring less, the practice of consuming less. They do mention the voluntary simplicity movement, but point out how even it has attracted brand consumption (idealized in the magazine Real Simple). I wonder if the contemporary version of this would be the popular book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” (Marie Kondo).

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