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on July 27, 2001
This book is for anyone who feels unsettled by the corporate agenda gulping up the culture of the entire world, not sparing education, the environment, local identity, etc.
With eye-opening examples, Klein informs the reader of everything from the approval of dangerous pharmaceutical products due to corporate sponsorship of universities (and the firings of whistleblowers who seek to inform the public of such dangers), to the support of authoritarian governments when it suits a corporate agenda. Witness the recent cozying up of Rupert Murdoch's media empire to the Chinese government. Censorship? Coming right up!
"No Logo", written in the late '90s, is proving to be very prescient. This week I read in the news that two teenage boys are offering their entire lives to First USA in exchange for a college education (they are becoming walking advertisements, bringing the company up in every conversation and only wearing clothing with the company logo), and that a family is offering corporations the chance to name their infant in exchange for some money to build a house. Identity has become the choice between Crest and Colgate.
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on July 2, 2001
I believe the most important thing about this book, is that it does not simply rehash the "brands are evil" sort of anti-corporate dirt that has already received attention in recent publications. 'No Logo' does not, as is suggested in a review below, merely outline how scary and powerful the multinational corporations are. Rather, Klein's 'No Logo' takes this sort of discourse one step further, by outlining the wider democratic implications of globalisation. This also allows Klein to avoid a sense of futility in her descriptions of corporate earth - her humourous and incisive tone inspires the reader to become active, which I feel is particularly important in this critical economic crossroads, rather than pessimistic or suicidal.
'No Logo' is infinitely readable, entertaining and inspiring. It's one of those books that would, I feel, make the world a better place if everyone read it. That's my current mission, anyhow - it will be the default birthday present of the majority of my friends for the next year, at least.
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on May 17, 2001
Often, it is those who disagree with the anti-corporate politics that quickly dismiss arguments like Klein's as purveying "liberal guilt". I believe that her book clearly provides a framework to think about relevant social issues that anyone can observe, nowhere mentioning guilt, so much as giving thought to the matter given certain evidence. Klein's position is clear, and her arguments are persuasive, but more to the point they are helpful in making sense of the world we live in.
In my reading of the book, I have found that her opinion is not that we should all stop buying stuff, nor that we should feel guilty, nor that we should hate corporations. It is the culture that we are ALL encouraging despite depression and divorce rates going up, and the quality and quantity of public spaces and discourse going down.
As a teacher, I see the hazardous and destructive qualities of our multi-national defined culture everyday with my teenage students. I see that their lives are increasingly defined in reference to the primary cultural sources that they have: the TELEVISION, and the INTERNET.
Many of the parents spend most of their time working in low-paying, low-benefit jobs with long hours. The parents, and the community work so much, having time to develop a coherent local culture is challenging.
Thus, the kids participate in the most engaging and exciting culture they are being offered.
The brand's purpose, though is not to uplift their opinions of themselves, but to highlight their what they aren't, what they lack, and then sell the brand's wares with the promise that with this brand's products come the style and confidence seen in their advertising.
What is ironic is that the critical framework Klein lays out explains many of the cultural phenomena that many "conservative" thinkers criticize in popular culture: violence, greed, and the sexualization of young adolescents in mass media publication. All of these things can be explained through the framework of advertising at any cost, branding as a no-holds-barred method of develiping culture.
Just watch the young people, who are after all the target audience of much of this global ad-based cultural shift, and decide for yourself if the global brand-culture in its current form is doing more good than harm.
"No Logo" is a clear and definitive critique of the loss of public power. It is useful in its explanation of how the manufacture of culture operates now, how it got to be this way, and how it affects societies at the local level. That it explains activism to curb the one-sided exchange of ideas is certainly useful, but for many, I believe it may be mostly a way to become more aware of how for-profit culture affects us all.
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on May 4, 2001
I credit the author immensely for the research that has gone into this eye-opening book. We truly are a society that has been manipulated by the brand name logos. If you do not believe this, ask your teenager what clothing they will and will not wear. The popular "big-name" brand names, also have big price tags, and that much we definitely know. All you need to do is buy your son or daughter a "generic, department store" pair of jeans, versus a trendy brand name pair, and watch how long the generic ones will hang, unworn, in the closet! You bet, the companies with the hot, popular labels, manipulate us. The sad part is, we as a society, allow it to happen by continuing to buy these products. What those expensive price tags essentially say is, "If you can't afford to wear us, you won't fit in," and particularly with teens and peer pressure, that is sad but often true. Now, what about the financial pressure that creates on parents, especially if you are in a low income bracket and, moreso, if you are a single parent?
If you read where the products are manufactured, you will find that "brand name or no brand name," they virutally all come from the same foreign countries. Are brand name of better quality - generally speaking - no, it is that cute little logo on the product or the name itself, that jacks up the price into oblivion. Then, there are child labour issues in some countries, and that in itself is such an enormous issue, I will not even attempt to go there in a book review.
If you really want to know the inside story, and what you, as a consumer are truly paying for, read this terrific book. It is a real eye-opener and a lesson in reality (and vanity)that will reveal just how manipulated we consumers really are by brand name logos... whether we realize it or not. Do I, personally, buy brand names? Not if I can help it; with age comes wisedom, and I have now buried my vanity in the closet along with my thirty year old prom dress and worn out XXXX brand name track shoes!
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on April 24, 2001
Klein may have written this book with an ideological chip on her shoulder, but "No Logo" is nonetheless very important and informative. At one level it is a critical analysis of the consumer culture of developed countries like the US, Canada or the UK, and the 'ideology' of mass consumerism as personified by fetishized brand-names. In this vein, Klein explores the origins of the very concept of branding, providing a number of interesting examples from recent and more distant history. She also looks at the implications of the increased focus on brands and the accompanying emphasis on marketing rather than production (which means "outsourcing" manufacturing jobs to third world countries with exploitatively low income levels). At another level, "No Logo" also serves as something of a history of the resistance movement to brands and the corporations that stand behind them. Even here the various NGOs, student movements, etc. are not completely free from criticism. Perhaps some of the strongest sections of the book are those dealing with conditions in the various free trade or export processing zones in places like Mexico or the Philippines - Klein visited many of these areas and held extensive interviews, and her observations and descriptions are often very moving. All in all, "No Logo" is definitely a very worthwhile read.
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on March 22, 2001
It never really occured to me how much the world had been changing over the past decade or so. "Suddenly", everybody was crazy about Ralph-Lauren shirts and Nike shoes. I never really liked that but I didn't care. I also didn't really care much about all the sweatshop issues people were bringing up because I thought I wasn't buying into the whole thing anyway. Over the past couple of years I got more interested in the changes, though. Starbucks coffee shops are growing faster than mushrooms and neighbourhoods are Gap-ified. I find that pretty disgusting but I didn't know anything about what was going on behind the scenes. Therefore, when I picked up Naomi Klein's "No Logo" I was pleasantly surprised to get a plethora of information about all that stuff. I can't praise Mrs. Klein enough for the work she must have put into the book. It is highly informative, fun to read, and it is nice to discover the writer herself behind many of the stories in there. So in the end, I got the information I was looking for and much more. I learned how Starbucks pushes little coffee shops out of neighbourhoods by offering to pay more rent for the very places the coffee shops are in, I learned about Nike and its now infamous sweatshop system etc. etc. The other day, I went to "Macy's" and I couldn't resist to look at the tags of the sweaters there. Made in Indonesia, Honduras, ... you name it. I was disgusted and I left. Reading the book might disgust you. But you'll get an excellent idea of what's going on and what you can actually do to counter Starbucks and all the other brand predators.
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on January 25, 2004
Naomi Klein has successfully documented the growing concern about consumerism in North America and around the world. What Klein has done in 'No Logo' is put into words a movement that was struggling for recognition. With 'No Logo', Klein has surmised the concerns of those who protest [in a literal or figurative way] the further reaches of globalization. She has also made their plight more understandable and backed it up with extensive research into the effects of corporate practices on everyday life. Klein discusses among other things, the importance of the Logo in modern society and it's growing association with, not just a brand, but a way of life and how this can be dangerous to many.
This book is a great read, if not simply to understand what all the fuss is about at the next FTAA meeting. But it is also a useful tool in surmising what is taking place around us and how it can affect not only our society, but ourselves as individuals.
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on May 19, 2002
as an environmentalist, i could see that big corporations were behind much of the political pressure to overexploit our natural resources. as a friend of people interested in international human rights and labor law, i knew that big business was somehow involved. however, it was not until i read naomi klein's "no logo" that i understood how these disparate movements have found a common enemy, thus binding them together in their battle against evil.
overdramatic? perhaps. but "no logo" is shockingly level-headed. this is not a melodrama like "fast food nation", but a carefully researched and well-constructed book about how big corporations have taken away our public spaces and public voices. the writing is clear and klein's story carries its momentum all the way to the bibliography. is there finger pointing? you bet. but klein goes beyond the usual hand-wringing theatrics, and actually documents campaigns that have succeeded in reforming some unethical business practices.
if you're a nader fan, then this good citizenship stuff is old hat. but even if you thought that bush stole the show from pat buchanan, you should read this book. it appeals to our common humanity and offers a dose of reality prozac to pull us out of the collective helplessness.
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on February 6, 2002
No Logo is a book well worth reading no matter what your political persuasion. It will make you aware, or more aware, of just how pervasive the "branding" of the world has become. Naomi Klein's book is well-researched, well-organized and well-written. It deals with some quite complicated material, such as the interaction between various social and economic forces, while always remaining very readable and never lapsing into simplistic ideological rhetoric or academic-style jargon. No Logo documents the history of the brand in America, then goes on to explore various ways people have resisted the corporate domination of modern life. It's difficult to dispute that these are important issues. Finding a solution, however, is not such a simple matter. Klein is sophisticated enough to be skeptical of the very kind of activism she covers in No Logo. For example, she points out how boycotts of high profile companies such as Nike often benefits other equally guilty (of exploiting its Third World labor force) but lower profile companies. One question that No Logo doesn't directly tackle is whether significant curtailment of corporate power would really benefit people in the Third World. It's likely, for example, that if companies were forced to improve working conditions, they'd simply hire fewer workers. It's a complex situation, and a kind of Catch-22 for the world's poor, including those in affluent nations stuck in "McJobs". However, we can't fault Naomi Klein for not solving such a complex problem. I highly recommend No Logo as a thorough study of modern capitalism's impact on our culture. It also provides insight into a growing protest movement, one this book has certainly helped along. Most of all this book, whether you agree with all of it or not, brilliantly synthesizes many complex issues and reveals the underlying forces that connect them. It's a significant contribution to modern social theory.
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on October 25, 2001
WHile I worried that this was a simple ideological diatribe, I was very happily surprized at the intelligence and substance of Klein's book. It is a tough, well-reasoned manifesto for the anti-consumerism left of "Gen X." If you are wondering what was driving many of those protesters at the WTO and other summit meetings - most notoriously Seattle in late 1999 - then this book is the best place I know. It is part cultural critique, part economics and social policy, and partly a call to arms. Reading it has helped me to make sense of so much that I thought was simple, nihilistic anarchism. I was humbled to learn that there is far far more behind the movement than I had granted it.
In a nutshell, Klein argues that the "superbrands" - the huge corporations such as Disney and Nike - are progressively taking over virtually all "public spaces," including school curricula, neighborhoods, and all-encompassing infotainment malls like Virgin Megastores. THey are doing this in an attempt enter our minds as consumers in the most intimate ways, which Klein and others find unbearably intrusive. Moreover, she argues, as they subcontract overseas, the superbrands are leaving first-world workers behind while they exploit those in the developing world under horible conditions. It all adds up, she asserts, into a kind of emerging global worker solidarity that is developing new means (via internet exposes, protest campaigns, etc.) to push the superbrands to adopt more just policies and practices.
What was so amazing and useful for me, as a business writer looking at the same issues, is that Klein so often hones in on the underside of what I think are good and effective business practices: the development of brand values, globalisation of the production/value chain to lower prices, and the like. Often I may disagree with her take on things, but she makes too many insightful points to dismiss her and those whom she speaks for. I came to genuinely respect her as a thinker and writer.
Nonetheless, there were numerous omissions, some of which I must point out. First, while condemning exploitive labor practices in third-world sweat shops (which I do not deny exist), Klein fails to explore what the available alternatives are for these workers. Well, I went to Pakistan to examine one of the cases she addresses - children soccerball sewers - and I can say that their alternatives were all too often brick kilns or leather tanneries, both of which were far more dangerous and beyond the reach of international activists because the superbrands have nothing to do with them. Second, Klein tended to dismiss the efforts of MNCs out of hand, as weak sops designed more for PR purposes than to effect change. This is true for some groups, but again, while in Vietnam, I witnessed what I regarded as real social progress that came from the actions of a superbrand: upon hearing the demands and suggestions of a worker-safety inspector paid by adidas, Taiwanese sewing-machine manufacturers were approaching him for detailed design specifications to enhance their safety (driver-belt covers to protect against hand and hair injuries) and he had lots more ideas. However modest, that is real and concrete progress in my opinion.
Moreover, I believe that many of Klein's assertions are inaccurate or unproven. Is there really a mass movement growing out there? Is the clever defacing of huge advertisement boards really impacting pubic consciousness? Does everyone perceive the thrust of the brands as intrusive and poisonous? Is the World Trade Organization set up in a way that works in favor of the first world and against the third world? These are complex and very difficult questions. Finally, as a passionate activist, Klein rhetoric can get a bit overheated. At one point she says that IBM "otherwise impaled itself"; at another that Milton Friedman is a "architect of the global corporate takeover." What do these things mean? I may regard Friedman as a laughable free-market fundamentalist, but he is only a cloistered academic idoelogue, not a doer of any kind. Does throwing a cream pie in his face do anything more than shock adults?
In spite of these reservations, I can only applaud Klein for stirring up the pot of these issues, which provoke thought and encourage exploration, even by conservatives like me.
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