NO LOGO by Naomi Klein

Flamingo 2001. ISBN 0-00-653040-0

This is a landmark book by Naomi Klein. It crystallizes feelings about the dark side of the free market and is a key text of the anti-globalization movement.

It describes a global division of labour that has become very clear by year 2002. In the West and particularly in America, anything that can be manufactured in low wage countries is contracted out to reduce costs.

The reduced costs, in things like sports shoes are translated into discounts and extra profits at the low end (eg. Wal Mart), or brand lifestyle and extra profits at the high end (eg. Nike) where a heavy investment is made in marketing.

The internet, globalization and free markets help everything along as companies can easily establish links with suppliers and convert themselves into "multinationals" - or rather companies selling in one country and manufacturing in another.

No Logo makes an uncompromising attack on the whole arrangement. Klein looks at discount stores, U.S. job losses and sweat shop labour but the main focus is on the new role of the brand: As she says in a recent interview ," What all branding is about is fetishizing really very basic consumer goods and putting them up on a pedestal and making them stand for things that they just don't stand for. They don't deliver."

The question is whether a shoe is only a shoe or is it much more? Does it define who you are? Nike etc. seem to be spending a lot of time and effort on co-opting street fashion and generating those transcendental feelings.

Klein wants consumers (people) to be aware of the manipulation although she herself has doubts about the chances of success.

For example she describes the "Sweat Shop Fashion Show" organised by basketball Coach Hayes in the gymnasium of St.Marys Secondary School in Pickering Ontario. As she says,"The plan was simple: as student models decked out in logowear strutted down a makeshift runway, another student off to the side would read a prepared narration about the lives of the Third World workers who made the gear."

"As the hip-hop started playing and the first kids bounded down the runway in Nike shoes and workout gear, the assembly broke into cheers and applause. The moment the young woman saddled with reading the earnest voice-over began, "Welcome to the world of Nike...." she was drowned out by hoots and whistles. It didn't take much to figure out that they weren't cheering for her but rather at the mere mention of the word (top)

Nike - everyone's favourite celebrity brand."

Neverthless she is sure that she is on to something new. She is an activist and the possibilities in this line such as Anti-Globalization meetings, Culture Jams, Reclaim the Streets and Brand Attacks get her strong support.

A basic truth is there. As she says, " Culture is something that happens to you ....... it is not something in which you participate, or to which you have the right to respond." You are called a consumer rather than a person and she highlights the second hand nature of modern life. Action comes through the television sceen and your participation is not required. In fact she quotes De Toqueville, and reflects on the general withdrawl from reality as Hollywood becomes so comfortable, perfect and attractive that it is better than the real thing.

The book is a political text with a clear propaganda line. Facts are selected and distorted, contrary information is ignored and it pays little attention to action within the democratic framework. The call for activism is justified on the grounds that (in her opinion) democracies have been subverted by corporate interests.

She doesn't ask people what they want but rather tells them what they should want in the best elitist/socialist tradition. If she took time out to ask them - the answer would probably be Wal Marts and the logos. They appear to like convenience, low prices, good selections, exciting brands and seem to have little concern for distant Third World labour.

She quotes Michael Wolf on the retail-as-tourist-destination, "the lights, the music , the furniture, the cast of clerks create a feeling not unlike a play in which you, the shopper, are given a leading role".

In global terms she states that in a world of global corporations and capital there should also be global rights and responsibilities. The product is the same but the legal systems under which it is produced and sold are different. Can world trade be made fairer without killing the golden goose?

It's a big question, but should the goose be sacrificed then it would be ironic that we are celebrating the triumph of capitalism at the point when we head back into big government and central planning. What do centrally planned trainers look like?

No Logo is an interesting book for its exposure of the fake nature of modern life and its radical political solution. Klein suggests that "what you want" is really what you have been conditioned to want and encourages you to fight back on the street.

< I've recently (2006) rethought this review after reading Heath & Potter's "The Rebel Sell". See this link. I'm Miró>

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