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Nation of rebels

March 11, 2005

We are all rebels now.

Authors Potter and Heath in their book “Nation of Rebels” argue that counterculture is just the system; now there is no such thing as alternative and mainstream, there are just things that are popular and things that haven’t been discovered yet.

Their central argument is that people who wanted to be alternative and counter-cultural didn’t change and undermine the system; instead they just got sucked into it. The authors use countless examples from the punk, hip-hop and grunge movements.

They believe things often things start off revolutionary and quickly become co-opted by the mainstream. They use the example of London fashion retailers selling designer punk safety pins, a few months after the punk explosion. They argue that this theory is nothing new and this has been happening for 40 years and started with the Hippie movement that was full of people who wanted to make money.

At the heart of the idea, it’s all about selling rebellion for people who compete in the race to be cool. The very idea of rebellion has just become so compelling it’s a mainstay of all consumer advertising, it’s become “a charge for the engine of consumption” and is just a reflection of the basic human need to be an individual.

They suggest that what’s different about today, is the Internet, making co-optation instantaneous, so being truly cool for any period of time is very difficult. Hence, the hipster backlash.

This is a blessing and a curse for brands; a blessing as they can become cool very quickly, a curse because they can lose favor just as fast. Net result- a fickle consumer on a constant quest for something new and a real problem if you want to be a true rebel, either as a brand or individual.

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