Monday, 20 February 2012

Naomi Klein- No Logo

No Logo

Naomi Klein
1999

"The astronomical growth in the wealth and cultural influence of multi-national corporations over the last fifteen years can arguably be traced back to a single, seemingly innocuous idea developed by management theorists in the mid-1980s: that successful corporations must primarily produce brands, as opposed to products." 

It was none other than comic book superstar author Grant Morrison who convinced me to read this book. Not personally, of course, but in his recent history of comic books/autobiography Supergods (to be reviewed here at some point), Morrison pointed to this vastly popular, now twelve-years-old negative dissection of the corporate culture of big brands as the definitive tome on the subject, and if the author of Final Crisis said so then who am I to argue? Morrison's not the only famous figure to have proclaimed No Logo as important reading; most notably career campaigners Radiohead recommended it to fans. It's not surprising, considering that, in the most simplistic fashion, 'billion dollar corporations are bad' isn't a hard statement to sell to the new new-age hippies of the twenty-first century, to whom buzzwords like globalisation immediately summon pessimistic connotations. This book has an immediate appeal, but is it any good?

First of all, I must confess that I'm not a politician. In fact, you might accuse me of barely being aware of anything that exists outside of the bubbles that are my personal life and entertainment culture, and so I headed into this book with a mixture of naivety and a vague cynicism regarding the notion of someone else trying to sway my opinion on a topic I know perilously little about. Some time later, when I was finished, I exited No Logo with... well, not a huge amount regarding actual personal feeling. The vague concepts surrounding extreme commercialism and massively huge brands were solidified somewhat with some genuinely interesting facts, figures, and human interest stories, but an actual sense of activism was almost completely lost on me, since No Logo does rather firmly establish, if unintentionally, that for the average person any acts of rebellion against these giants is like throwing rocks at the moon.

Naomi Klein writes with a personal, friendly tone that allows her to successfully mix up potentially dull facts and figures with heartfelt stories of victimized consumers and abused sweatshop workers that directly humanize the negative impact that the methods used by corporate giants to gain such huge lumps of cash and expand their territory. From her home country of Canada to the sweatshop factories of China, Klein finds people to talk to and subjects to talk about. There's so many contentious issues to highlight that she has plenty to write about, and does, but to varying levels of interest from this reader. In many ways it reminded me of Richard Dawkins' book on evolution The Greatest Show On Earth in that it's so completely dedicated to covering a massive topic that it doesn't really care about appealing to the casual reader in regards to homogenizing or downplaying elements that simply don't make for an interesting read. That's certainly admirable, but does ensure that some segments of this book are a drag.

Perhaps much of No Logo's success is that it manages to achieve its goal of 'taking aim' at its targets and throwing some explosive ammunition without seeming like a single-minded vendetta designed to appeal to a majority. Klein is a personable author who strikes this fine balance between propaganda and the rabbiting of fact through careful presentation, but I found it very hard to get exited or worked up about anything in this book, and towards the end found my inclination to read more to become less and less. Perhaps that's because I'm not quite the target audience and I was reading in the hope of being more impressed by the writing than its subject. Or perhaps, in the decade since original publication this post-9/11 world has inundated the media-absorbing public with other worrying topics that have taken the attention away from this subject. Either way, No Logo left me with some thoughtfulness and some respect for the presentational abilities of Naomi Klein, but sadly little else.