Monday, March 26, 2007

the co-opting of counterculture

Increasing numbers of Americans bought products like Volkswagens and, later, much more expensive Volvos "to demonstrate that they were wise to the game" and, ironically, "to express their revulsion with the artifice and conformity of consumerism."[from Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool] In this way, Madison Avenue cleverly made the values of the counterculture accessible and acceptable to middle America, and then pressed them into the service of consumerism.

- Giles Slade "Made to Break"

This he wrote in reference to the marketing campaign that led to the rise in popularity of the Volksvagen Beetle in the 60's.

This seems to happen over and over again. There is genius in marketing and capitalism in its ability to take symbols and imagery of whatever revolution might be happening and use them to sell you stuff like t-shirts and computers, deodorant and cigarettes. I wonder if those who struggle to change the world and the way that people think about it find themselves in an ongoing struggle to continually create new images and labels and words and symbols to race ahead of the ad copy or find themselves trying to fight fire with fire using the very same techniques to spread their word for their own purposes.

I suspect that my fascination with a book about the history of planned obsolescence is proof positive that I have grown up to be exceptionally dull. Literally, this book has caused me to miss my subway transfer on the way to work in the morning.


giles slade said...

I'm very happy to learn you missed your subway transfer. It took me four years to researcha and write this book. I wanted intelligent people to find it riveting and a little bit scary. It is scary when you consider how we've been manipulated into substituting disposable products for nearly everything durable and meaningful in our lives and it is even more scary when you realize the toxins from these products --once they're disgarded-- will poison North America's groundwater. Anyway, thanks. It's good to know I have friends in the great city of Brooklyn...

ldbug said...

Oh, you're not dull, and hey, you've got authors commenting!! Very cool:-)

And at least you aren't tormented by fictional charactors...

Groucho Castaneda said...

My only response to the co-option of the so-called "counterculture" is to quote Frank Zappa:

"In the fight between you and the world, back the world."

keNYC said...

i think i'm just going to post something worthless here just to try to piggyback some site hits off of the large amounts of wisdom present on this comment roll.

totally thought i was cool for getting my graffiti post posted. totally wasn't. ergs, you rule!

Jay said...

Not too much of a dullard, I hope, because that one's next on my night stand.

ergo said...

giles slade: Hello Sir! So kind of you to stop by. The section on Nylon was way cool. I am at the section about obsolescence and the Cold War. That's some crazy stuff. Thanks for writing! And keep us posted on your next project, yes?

ldbug: Thanks for the vote of confidence. I love fiction that torments - it's the best kind, really.


kenyc: C'mon now, your graffiti post rocks AND it was picked up by others AND considered link worthy. Let us not sneeze at our considerable fortune.

jay: Yay! Let me know what you think!