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Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Cultureby Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter
Synopses & Reviews
In this wide-ranging and perceptive work of cultural criticism, Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter shatter the most important myth that dominates much of radical political, economic, and cultural thinking. The idea of a counterculture — a world outside of the consumer-dominated world that encompasses us — pervades everything from the antiglobalization movement to feminism and environmentalism. And the idea that mocking or simply hoping the "system" will collapse, the authors argue, is not only counterproductive but has helped to create the very consumer society 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.
"So-called rebellion not only perpetuates the market economy, it's the economy's biggest driving factor. So argue Canadian philosophy professors Heath and Potter; in their world, you can't 'sell out' or be 'co-opted,' because you're already participating in the market, where rebellion is just another word for relentless innovation, fashion and cool. With sharp humor, the two make a solid case for consumerism being motivated by competitiveness rather than conformity, while pointing out the hypocrisies and shortcomings of 'alternative' lifestyles, like the fascination with ancient non-Western medicine as somehow nobler and purer than modern science. Their theoretical underpinnings range from critiques of Freud to French postmodernism, and they layer their philosophical arguments with personal experience (though the use of 'I' without identifying the writer as either Heath or Potter becomes irritating). The authors tear into veterans of the '60s counterculture repeatedly, and blaming the 'all or nothing' approach of would-be radicals who drop out for holding back progress. The arguments are familiar, but Heath and Potter's sustained scrutiny of the premises from a market perspective freshens them." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]n intriguing examination of personal freedom within the inevitabilities of a market economy." Kirkus Reviews
"[T]his book enlightens us enough to accomplish its goal while being quite an infectious read as well as inspiration to forge ahead to analyze how average lifestyle decisions affect the big picture of capitalism." Booklist
"This book is not only thought-provoking, but a lively, spirited and entertaining read." Winnipeg Free Press
"Nation of Rebels provides an incisive and witty indictment of consumer trends..." BusinessWeek
"[A] provocative broadside....In a pluralistic society, the authors insist, individualized radicalism is unhelpful; the free market...best counters social, economic, and environmental ills. Unabashedly polemical, this book is recommended..." Library Journal
Book News Annotation:
As the counterculture hippies evolved into yuppies and traded their Volkswagen Beetles in for gas-guzzling SUVs, they were not selling out; they were merely following the natural path laid out for them by the core assumptions of the counterculture. So argue Heath (philosophy, U. of Toronto, Canada) and Potter (philosophy, Trent U., Canada) in this work of cultural criticism that attacks the theory of society they believe underlie countercultural ideas. Ideas about the psychological oppression of the individual by organized society articulated by figures like Herbert Marcuse, the "society of the spectacle" decried by the French situationists, and others identified by the authors as part of the counterculture milieu are criticized and blamed for devolving into empty protest that ironically may serve to undermine efforts toward greater justice for exploited groups.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Joseph Heath is an associate professor in the department of philosophy at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Communicative Action and Rational Choice and The Efficient Society, a Maclean's and Globe and Mail bestseller, which was also selected as one of the best books of 2001 by the Globe and Mail.
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