Book Review: No Logo by Naomi Klein

First of all, it has to be noted that I read the 10th anniversary edition, and cannot compare to the original edition, published in 2000. The book looks at the rise of brands and the way they have taken over various aspects of modern life. It is split into 4 sections:

No Space – where certain brands have attempted to make themselves ubiquitous, pushing competition to the margin
No Choice – where the companies behind the brands have gone out of their way to try and protect their brand and ensure that consumers have few alternatives to choose from
No Jobs – the impact on job security, conditions and the outsourcing of jobs to export processing zones (EPZs)
No Logo – a bit of a hodge-podge of topics, but broadly looking at the rise of anti-globalisation movements.

The book is surprisingly trans-atlantic. One trepidation I felt in picking the book up was that it was primarily a critique of north american corporate practices. And though this is true, it did not feel like I was reading about an alien culture. I suspect this, in and of itself, may be evidence of the kind of globalised culture that Klein is criticising.

The book does go into some depth on its topics, with plenty of references for further explanation on some key areas covered (e.g. The McLibel trial) which gives the book tremendous credibility. It is, however, also littered with emotively loaded adjectives, which made me a little uncomfortable, as it did not feel that I was always reading a balanced account. Later in the book, Klein describes the time she spent talking to sweatshop workers in one of these EPZs and from here it is clear where the emotional heart of her anger has come.

The book makes a compelling case for the anti-globalisation movement, with a due recognition (albeit only at the very end of the book) that this has, on occasions, led to unnecessary violence – a feature which seems to be more evident in the years since the book was first written. One thing is not is a resource pack for activists; Klein never tells the reader what to do or who to boycott. Rather, she shines a light (or maybe an X-ray) onto certain brands and leaves it to the reader’s conscience as to what action they are to take.

One drawback of the book is that the level of detail included means that the page count is pretty high. Personally, I think the case could have been well made enough in a 300 page book, rather than the roughly 500 page volume (almost a tome, but not quite) we now have. For that reason, though I didn’t skip any of it, I did think on more than one occasion “OK, Naomi, you’ve made your point. Now please stop beating me over the head with extra examples.” The sad thing is, though, the book could probably have been twice as long and still not dealt with every pertinent issue.

10 years on, some things have changed, but No Logo is still relevant as portal through which to see the vacuity of global brands.

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