I am going to start off with a passage from Rebel Sell in which Heath and Potter are describing Lester from American Beauty:
Apart from the new car, he develops a taste for very expensive marijuana—$2,000 an ounce, we are told, and very good. “This is all I ever smoke,” his teenaged dealer assures him. Welcome to the club, where admission is restricted to clients with the most discriminating taste. How is this any different from Frasier and Niles at their wine club? (Heath and Potter)
Heath and Potter are in effect saying that by buying extremely expensive marijuana Lester is still victim to consumerism, taking pride in the status that is received through this extravagancy.
In my opinion, Lester is not doing that and is significantly different than Frasier and Niles. Just like he was defying mass society by smoking pot in the afternoon, he is doing so by spending this amount of money on it. This is because it is illegal. Not only does its illegality itself defy convention, but lack of taxation on the money spent on it does too. In typical consumerism, one is always giving part of the money one spends on an item to the government through general and provincial sales taxes. This is one thing EVERYONE has in common. Even if ones attitude in style is essentially “F the government” , everyone is partially contributing to that government by buying anything. This is where Lester differs from Niles and Frasier. He is spending incredible amounts of money and the government has no take. Lester is not contributing to the society he lives in by paying tax.
Now what does all this have to do with Thomas Franks second thesis?
2. Capitalism requires conformity of education. Training these corporate drones begins in the schools, where their independence and creativity is beaten out of them—literally and figuratively. Call this the Pink Floyd theory of education. (Heath and Potter)
Well, what does education teach us that makes us conform? In accordance to what I had been saying about Lester, we can look at how schools teach about drugs in school. Good or Bad, Anti-drug messages attempt to streamline the conscious of a mass society. All children are being brought up on an anti-drug lifestyle and thus adding to the conformity in society. Lester is defying this conformity by using drugs and in particular by donning a sort of connoisseur like attitude towards it, in essential, mocking that Frasier-and-Niles-at-their-wine-tasting sense of prestige.
In what ways do you see conformation through education and how does this lead to capitalism? Well Capitalism requires conformity and repression. The Rebel Sell is all about how a mass society makes for a consumerist society, and that is because with a unified idea of earning status, it is possible to sell ridiculous items for ridiculous costs because the knowledge is there that people will want to express their status through money or style.
Education these days is often taught with the goal of having a proper high paying job in the future. Nobody is being trained to be the garbage men/women of this society. Importance and thus Envy are placed on that high level society from a young age. This in effect is the conformity of education needed to achieve capitalism. The simple idea that by buying this over that, you can have this enviable lifestyle.