The Rebels That Aren’t

“With this theory of co-optation in place, the counterculture itself becomes a ‘total ideology,’ a completely closed system of thought immune to falsification, in which every apparent exception simply confirms the rule. For generations now, countercultural rebels have been pumping out ‘subversive’ music, ‘subversive’ art, ‘subversive’ literature, ‘subversive’ clothing, while universities have been packed full of professors disseminating ‘subversive’ ideas to their students. So much subversion, and yet the system seems to tolerate it quite well. Does this suggest that the system is perhaps not so repressive after all? ‘On the contrary,’ says the countercultural rebel. ‘It shows that the system is even more repressive than we thought—look at how skillfully it co-opts all of this subversion!’ Back in 1965, Herbert Marcuse coined a term to describe this peculiar sort of repression. He called it ‘repressive tolerance.’ It’s an idea that makes about as much sense now as it did then”

Nation of Rebels, p. 35