Daniel Solera's Reviews > No Logo

No Logo by Naomi Klein
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Nov 14, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: business-economics, culture-sociology

Naomi Klein is a Canadian political activist and journalist with controversial viewpoints on globalization, corporations and extreme, or neoliberal capitalism. I read her most recent book, The Shock Doctrine a little over a year ago. In it, Klein condemns governments’ privatization of the public sector, their exploitation of disasters for private sector growth, and the brutal consequences suffered by the lower classes. No Logo, published in 1999, is about the unchecked laissez faire enjoyed by large, image-based corporations, and the toll their practices take on economies and workers.

The premise of the book begins in April 1993, when Malboro cut prices on their cigarettes to compete with non-brand name products. This was a shock to corporate America because it suggested that consumers weren’t buying products for the name, which prompted companies to push their brand versus their product. In Klein’s words, “Brand X is not a product but a way of life, an attitude, a set of values, a look, an idea” (23). The whole thrust of the book is a condemnation of brand promotion and the way profits-first corporations reengineered the values of public and private institutions in the mid-to-late 90’s, focusing on such household names as Nike, Starbucks, Disney, McDonald’s, the Gap, and of course, Wal-Mart.

Klein’s biggest beef with corporations isn’t that they’re large and profitable, but rather their insistence on putting profits and size before people. It’s not their massive revenues, but instead their bolstering of profits at the expense of keeping their employees living in squalor. It is, after all, ridiculous that former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s salary and stock options from 1996 could have supported 19,000 Haitian workers for fourteen years (352). It is this kind of disparity gap that keeps Klein at the forefront of the anti-globalization movement. It doesn’t help that many of the foreign governments that host sweatshops live in constant fear of losing their investors and therefore provide the proper tax cuts and bureaucratic and human rights oversights.

No Logo talks about the ubiquity of brands, their oppressive marketing tactics, their theft of consumer choice, and their focus on kids to ensure their perpetuity. Contracts with influential sports figures such as Michael Jordan keep the Nike brand permanent in low-income neighborhoods. Starbucks’ explosive expansion policy, which often deliberately cannibalizes its own stores for the sake of, overwhelms an area and drives out competitors. And of course, no anti-corporate bash is complete without the requisite slamming of Wal-Mart.

Klein does show that there is hope for her cause with the numerous protests that happen yearly outside flagship stores, the grass-roots campaigns that seek to rid their schools of corporate sponsorships, the cultural and adjammers who routinely deface popular billboards using the company’s own content as inspiration and the abundance of lawsuits and negative press they suffer. Although her examples won’t be enough to dethrone a widespread system endorsed by companies and governments, but they are the first steps towards making a difference for the millions who work for thirteen cents a day to make shoes that sell for thirty times that amount.

I would have enjoyed an updated version of this book because it often suffers from sounding like a time capsule. The collective outrage of Americans towards sweatshops was all the rage in the late 90’s, but then seemed to suddenly halt thanks to the rewiring of the American mindset after 9/11. Klein’s afterword, written in February 2002, mentions this, but that is the most recent viewpoint we get. The internet is only mentioned in passing throughout the book and doesn’t have it’s own dedicated section, which it should given the content. With this minor complaint in mind, I very much enjoyed Klein’s polemic on the irresponsible practices of overblown companies.
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