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When Naomi Klein took on the "brand bullies" in No Logo, a book charting the rise of anticorporate activism, she auspiciously, inadvertently perhaps, branded herself an anticorporate activist. Fences and Windows is a chronicle of that ascending career. It's a collection of the columns, speeches, and essays--the bulk of which appeared originally in The Globe and Mail--that Klein wrote between 1999 and 2002 as she traversed the world bearing witness to antiglobalization rallies, demonstrations, and counter-summits that mushroomed, largely in response to the November 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. The book, ultimately, is a record of the emergence of a new type of activism, one indebted to the culture of globalization even as it seeks to open a critical window onto and provoke debate about the policies of multinationals, the WTO, the IMF, and national governments. She writes:
What emerged on the streets of Seattle and Washington was an activist model that mirrors the organic, decentralized, interlinked pathways of the Internet--an Internet come to life . But while the movement's Web-like structure is, in part, a reflection of the Internet-based organizing, it is also a response to the very political realities that sparked the protests in the first place: the utter failure of traditional party politics.
The book is structured as a series of "hub and spokes," one of the metaphors Klein uses to describe the movement. The broad themes of intolerance towards and criminalizing of dissent, the impact of a genetically engineered food supply, the privileging of corporate profit over social welfare, the erosion of national sovereignty, and the neglect of ecological considerations are the hubs around which gravitate her reports on the protests that have taken place in Toronto, Quebec City, South Africa, Prague, Chiapas, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. The reader, Klein states upfront, should not expect a sustained thesis. Instead, the articles are dispatches from the many sites of dissent--brief, immediate, impassioned, engaged, positioned, incendiary, persuasive, crafted. A moment comes, however, when the reader does desire a more in-depth dialogue about the issues raised by these confrontations, especially when presented with a simplistic "us-versus-them" slant. One example is the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty protest in Toronto which erupted into a violent (some may argue provoked) clash between police and demonstrators. Klein almost seems to brush it off by taking one side, rather than contemplating the question "Is this the only kind of response possible, and should it be?" At a time when, as this book makes abundantly clear, the very topography of democracy is experiencing seismic tremors, critical and rigorous reflection by our intellectuals becomes of utmost importance. This is where Fences and Windows either constitutes a lost opportunity or presents an invitation for reflection. --Diana Kuprel
The success of Klein's No Logo, a slashing account of how corporations actively go after "market share" and the global misery that can result, makes anticipation for her next project high. As Klein notes in her preface, this book is more a stopgap than a follow-up. Covering the period of late 1999 to 2002, the book collects Klein's in-the-trenches journalism about sweatshops, genetically modified foods, evolving police tactics for crowd control and more. The two title images recur throughout: the fences are real, steel cages keeping protesters from interfering with summits, but they are also metaphorical, such as the "fence" of poverty that prevents the poor from receiving adequate education or health care. Klein argues that globalization has only delivered its promised benefits to the world's wealthiest citizens and that its emphasis on privatization has eroded the availability of public services around the globe. Critics have suggested that the "anti-globalization" movement (a term loathed, Klein notes, by many people actually involved) lacks a cohesive structure, but Klein generally sees this decentralization as a strength, likening the small groups' "hub and spoke" organization to that of linked Web sites. While Klein offers snapshots of success stories involving Nike, Starbucks and other corporate monoliths, she wisely does not suggest any easy solutions to this complex mesh of problems. Despite post-September 11 talk to the contrary, these dispatches indicate that the movement is far from over.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.