This book is certainly a fascinating read, provocative, and stimulating. Those factors in and of themselves make it worth reading, because in the least, it will challenge the reader (as it did with me) to re-evaluate his or her positions on a whole range of issues. This is true even if the reader ultimately rejects some, or all, of the author's arguments.
However, I did find Klein's ability to trip over herself in an attempt to be politically correct, as well as her incessant middle-class, white guilt to be a bit much at times, and she presented a very one-sided argument.
Klein paints a stark picture of the way consumerism runs, and if not for the last few chapters, it would be easy to come away from this book completely depressed and disillusioned with the human situation. Ultimately though, I still came away from this book with discomfort. I think this stemmed not from the corporate activity. I actually found Phil Knight to be the real Machiavellian hero of this book due to his deep and amusing understanding of human nature. My discomfort came from the glaring contradiction in Klein's philosophical and political ideologies.
In the most basic form, Klein seems to dislike globalisation because it essentially impinges on the democratic freedoms of individuals. I agree to that extent (although it also does a lot of good for people). Personally, I think the form of globalisation portrayed in her book is an abomination. The situations described at all stages of the retail industry do seem cripple and stifle individual liberties, although in certain stages, people do have more of an avenue out. Also, not to be discussed here, but Klein cleverly side steps the entire issue that the plight of the third world may not be entirely the fault of colonialism and neo-colonialism, but based on anachronistic and stagnant cultural, religious and philosophical ideals and the tacit acceptance in these and corrupt political systems. That aside though, I'm not justifying the ugly face of globalisation.
It is from here that we disagree though. Firstly, her continuous trumpeting of representative democracy seems to miss a couple of things. Firstly, representative democracy is like three wolves and a sheep deciding what is for dinner (or perhaps even three sheep and a wolf). By definition, it must be about the sacrifice of individual liberties to the will of the majority. I'm neither a wolf nor a sheep, so it certainly isn't to my benefit. That aside though, there is a parallel between this and the economics she describes. Those with less wealth have less economic representation than those with more, in much the same way as three wolves have more say as to the menu than one sheep.
If Klein is to talk about true freedom, then she shouldn't dismiss corporations, yet advocate states. She loves the idea of government though (so long as it's "nice"). From my reading of her book, Klein seems to hate the intrusive and draconian arm of the multi-nationals, yet has no problem with the intrusive and draconian arm of governments in a whole range of areas ranging from political correctness, labour laws, protectionism, taxation, social security, and a whole grab bag of perennial libertarian favourite annoyances. After all, whether a corporation or a government dictates my life, if the decisions are not mine, what is the difference? The difference, of course, is that Klein (and the left generally) doesn't see socialistic governments as intrusive or draconian. They're moral of course!
That is the whole point though- it's all about personal responsibility, and choice (ironically). I'm certainly no fan of Orwellian corporations and I'm no walking billboard (although, there's a fair degree of hypocritical, middle-class existence involved by patronising some corporations on a daily basis). Legislation and the tyranny of the utilitarian majority are no alternatives though, at least not if freedom is the aim. If Klein does value every person as capable of taking charge of his or her own life, then this must surely extend to all facets of an individual's life. Every individual should take charge of his or her own economics, social interactions and morality (often all in the one instance). Rights go with responsibilities though. The last thing we need is to be governed. We're not little kids in need of a governess. Of course though, I think most people really don't want individual freedom, and so whether it's church, state or corporation/logo, people need (and want) to give themselves over.
For those of us who want freedom, the Mommy State is not an improvement on Big Brother, and that's why I found Klein's book ultimately unfulfilling.