Naomi Klein
No Logo

Naomi Klein puts consumerism under the spotlight for a close examination of over-the-counter-culture and anti-corporate subversion.

By SZA

Once upon a time corporations manufactured products. They now market brands, acting as 'meaning brokers' that associate their products with lifestyles. Her portrayal of the big brands like Nike, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, IBM, Shell et al is often damning, but her line of attack is supported through extensive interviews with corporate directors and advertising executives. One marketing director said that 'brands must establish emotional ties with their customers' and another called consumers "roaches – you spray them and they get immune after a while."

Her behind-the-scene investigation into corporate production lines emphasise the dubious and immoral nature of the big brands. She traces Nike products back to abusive Vietnamese sweatshops and interviews slave-waged teenagers who assemble IBM computers ("We make computers but don't know how to operate them"). An informed, wide-reaching perspective drives home the shocking realisation that third world child labour turns 'Western babies into mini-billboards'.

Intensive 'brand bombing' has inevitably created many victims in third world and Western economies, as corporations shut down factories in favour of sub-contractable and non-unionised sweatshops and bombard deprived ghettos with aspirational yet clearly unattainable billboard imagery. And then there are the fashion victims who global corporations rely on to determine world trade and crush cultural diversity. Despite Adland's disdainful treatment of roach-like consumers, I don't think they are the passive dupes Klein sometimes pre-supposes. Fashion is the epitome of capitalism; the industry relies on its loyal flock to buy 'new' lines of designs every few weeks. Capitalism is imposed, irrational consumption is a choice. Consumers are not victims – fashion or otherwise – but active collaborators.

Reclaim The Streets gets an entire chapter for claiming back public space from the corporations, advertising agencies, authorities and automobiles, and creating what Hakim Bey calls a Temporary Autonomous Zone. I was particularly impressed by Klein's collation of first-hand reports from around the world that outlined simultaneous pan-global street party gatherings. The Culture Jamming chapter pulls together interviews, anecdotal evidence and imagery on the growth of subvertising, with Negativland, Chumbawamba, the McLibel trials and global billboard banditry remixing what we know, or thought we knew, about popular culture.

Essentially, No Logo is a siren going off. Corporations are the most political forces of our times. Naomi Klein believes that once more people discover the brand name secrets of the global web their outrage will fuel the next big political movement.
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