Rebel Sell tells us how we can never escape consumerism. That while we think we have distinguished ourselves from the SUV-driving, Nike wearing, outdoor-vacationing throng, we actually just reenacting the same desires, only more expensively. By elevating our own tastes from that of mass society, we are only serving the machines of consumerism even more.
Rebel Sell insists that a "critique of consumerism," as exhibited in films like Fight Club and American Beauty, is actually just a "restatement of the critique of mass society." The two are not the same, although people tend to confuse the two. While Fight Club tells us the way to beat the machine is to blow it up, American Beauty encourages us to subvert it from within. And yet, both ways still end up serving the machine god of consumerism.
How did this happen?
Because capitalism is so embedded in our culture that our institutions have shaped us to have the same education, encourages conformity of desires, sexual repression and consumption. We create our distinctions by becoming more discriminating and sophisticated, often preferring the rarer, more expensive variety. Those who profess to not care about brands are actually more brand-conscious. In this kind of game, "anti-consumerism" is only a stance wherein we buy our distinction through positional goods.
So in the end, we are still our f*cking khakis after all.