309 of 333 people found the following review helpful
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.
87 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2003
I found this book to be very interesting, and disturbing. Klein is certainly a Leftist, and generally as a conservative I would dispute much of her world-view but with the first half of her book she is on to something. I believe that the second half is less successful, and I do not share her idealization of graffiti artists and anti-global activists, but overall her book is a provacative and important one. Read and beware.
I would like to respond to an earlier reviewer's comments, which many of my friends have directed me to when I told them of the book. Tristan from Australia finds fault with a graph in her book (not indexed for inflation) and then sets to beaking her over the head with it. I think he misses much of the point of her book - even if her graph is off.
There is no question based on anecdotal evidence alone that advertising and the pervasiveness of "branded" space has increased. Look at modern sports stadiums, say the NFL - they're all named after corporations. The athletes at "FedEx Field" are all wearing brands that the team has negotiated (and been paid large sums to wear) - and they can be fined if they aren't wearing a "Starter brand" cap when they sit on the bench, etc. They then sit down and drink a Gatorade, while they watch the Coca-cola sponsored half-time show featuring Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or whoever the company believes they can best get to flog their product. The highlights from the first half will be then shown on the X-brand half-time show, and then recreated using graphics from EA Sports John Madden game. You could avoid all this and go to a movie, but first you'll have to sit through advertisements before the movie - and not just for upcoming movies anymore. First you'll be shushed by Halley Epsenberger while she's cramming Pepsi down your throat - all this after you spent $9.50 to be a captive audience for commercials - at least when you watch basic TV the excuse that the advertising is paying for the programs make sense, but this? And then you can be clever and see how many products have been placed in the movie. If it's James Bond you can see him wearing X-brand watch, drive his BMW, and polish it off with some Tanqueray Gin - not because smooth sophisticates drink it, but because Tanqueray paid the most for it.
As for her other points - she goes into great depth about how we're becoming fungible goods as workers. An example I remember from the book is that Microsoft has a core of permanent employees and true they do make good money, but half of their work is done by temps. And to ensure that temps don't try and claim anything as basic as health coverage (what would they be thinking?) they're required to be laid off for a 30 day period every year so that no one classifies them as full time workers. Walmart does get to keep prices low as the Australian writer suggested, but unlike prior employers who believed they had a responsibility to take care of their workers - e.g. Ford wanted every worker to be able to afford a Ford - Walmart doesn't care whether it's employees can afford to shop their or not. As I know from having done some work for them they're all about keeping employees employed at under 28 hours a week - again so they can keep from having to pay any benefits. Great you say - get another job, but others such as Starbucks have caught on to that and screw their employees similarly. Sure you work 30 hours a week, but the schedule is such that you can't realistically get a job to fill in the time you're not working for them, plus you get to be on unpaid call (I guess for a coffee emergency), and in typical fashion they've even done computerized studies on each employee's productivity. They know each stores peak hours, how many customers x-employee typically serves, etc. - so they can schedule the employees only for the most cost-effective time. On one hand this sounds fair, but on the other - it's completely shafting the employee - especially those that treat it as their "real" job. Given that we're becoming a service based economy, this is getting to be a larger and larger part of the public.
So the Australian guy can carp all he wants about graphs, and he can avoid the point of her argument - which is that advertising has gotten more sophisticated, and insidious - all to help companies, which are shedding any "brick and mortar" connections to become brands and images rather than production (an interesting example - Levis - which no longer owns a single factory, but has outsourced all of its production to third-world factories - which it is not responsible for, and which it can leverage to provide even cheaper and cheaper products - damn the sweatshop employees). I hope he and others are comforted when their jobs disappear and he goes to stand in line at the Hillfiger sponsored Employment office.
94 of 105 people found the following review helpful
With a 16 year old son in our house, I've not only been fighting the "brand name bullies" outside our home but the teenaged one INSIDE our home as well. So it was a no-brainer for me to buy and read this book. I won't say it was an easy read. But the information contained within it was worth the time spent. More importantly, I left the book lying in a spot where my son was sure to see it and was gratified when he picked it up and read parts of it. Now he has loosened his rigid stance on having only the "coolest" clothes with the "best" logos on them and started to realize that his individuality was being manipulated to some degree by advertisers. He's started talking to his friend about the book too. Having said that, I don't want ANYONE to think this book doesn't have its flaws. There is repetition of some subjects that have already been discussed ad nauseum in the media already - advertising in the public schools via educational channels and other subjects. But there is also plenty of new information and Klein makes her case with solid, clear arguments.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2003
This is a very, very interesting book regardless of what the "ending" or the "higher purport" may be and irrespective of the pseudo-intellectual nitpicking by a number of other reviewers. So get it, read it and enjoy it. Even if it doesn't ruffle your fancies, it brims with real factual evidence about the dark side of big business so at the very least you'll leave with some very interesting information off a single, compact compilation.
THE LONG, WINDING RAMBLE:
The basic premise of the book is to highlight how advertising and general business practices have changed in the last twenty years. Essentially, companies decided that they were no longer in the business of selling products, because products are messy, duplicable, or even improvable. But if you are selling an idea, an experience, a set of associations, it is much harder for another company to compete with you. Think of Tommy Hilfiger for instance -- clothes manufactured in China and India for throw-away costs, but their designs are frantically devoured globally at horrendous price tags. This is why branding is big, and sometimes clandestine, business.
The book is divided into four sections: 'No Space,' 'No Choice,' 'No Jobs' and 'No Logo.' 'No Space' is about the cluttering of our public spaces with ads; 'No Choice' describes different tactics used by big-name brands to drive independent retailers out of business; 'No Jobs' takes aim at sweatshop labour but with the corporations' "Brand, not products!" mentality in mind (it also includes details of Klein's trip to an Export Processing Zone just south of Manila); finally, 'No Logo' documents the global movement against branding and many of the organizations and people behind the revolt.
1. Klein's fluid writing style really shines throughout this book and her arguments are sharp and well targeted.
2. A delightful plethora of interesting, superbly researched facts and statistics that'll open your eyes, sometimes vis-a-vis brands that you'd least expect to be embroiled with anything ulterior.
3. I found that each section contained one exceptional chapter. In 'No Space,' "The Branding of Learning" (chapter 4) is simply wonderful, especially for students of branding. You'll read about grade school kids making Nike sneakers as "an educational experience" and a 19-year-old student being suspended for wearing a Pepsi shirt on "Coke Day." In "No Jobs," "The Discarded Factory" (chapter 9) offers the same old shocking facts about sweatshop labour with a fresh perspective which only makes the situation seem worse. Etc.
1. Where No Logo fails is in its attempt to tie these different themes together. With an attempt of this genre, it would have been very unseful to see some "solutions" or recommendations to the issue that Klein raised. For instance, she argues that companies have to spend more money on 'branding', and this is why production is moving to sweatshops. Companies can't afford to have factories and a brand, so they ditched the factories. But its not just the big brands that are made in sweatshops. Nike runners may be made in Indonesia, but so are the local-brand runners in your supermarket. Gap shirts are made in sweatshops, but so are the shirts in the department store. The sweatshops aren't a result of branding, they're a product of the desire of companies to cut costs. Some companies will then keep their prices low, while others will spend a lot on advertising, but hope to make even more by charging higher prices. In the end, Nike is bad, Gap is bad -- but what should they do in lieu of their current practices?
2. Related to the above point, Klein skimps on examples of the "good" companies or what is commonly tossed around as "best practices".
3. Perhaps many of the corporate ties within the open source software community are very much along the lines of Klein's notion of an ideal balance between corporations and communities. A discussion of open source projects -- especially coming from a journalist of the caliber of Naomi Klein -- is amiss.
All in all, a very thought-provoking read, but too much time is spent talking about 'subverting' advertisements or painting over billboards. Consumer boycotts are explored, even while their weaknesses are admitted. So there's less room to explore ways that we in the west can help sweatshop workers get organised, and how we can help their struggles, which should be the objectives of any campaign. As a commercial-political treatise or as an analytical guide to action, which is what the book could easily have been, this book is a little disappointing. A 4-star material nevertheless!
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2004
The rest of the book alternates between ho-hum recaps of highlights from the annals of consumer activism and breathless lionizing of adbusters and culture jammers. To Klein's credit, she never fails to present both sides of an argument. But none of this stuff lives up to the brilliantly lucid analysis of our branded planet in "No Choice," the book's first section. Klein's discussion of the brands' ever-increasing reach into our very heads, as they deftly co-opt one mode of cultural expression after another, is the best elucidation of the subject I've read anywhere.
If the "solutions" she lays out in the second half of the book, such as flipping the script on advertisers by punning on their slogans, or dragging your turntables into an intersection a la Reclaim The Streets, seem rather pathetic, it is perhaps inevitable. The only really sensible response to the brands' takeover is simply to ignore them: throw away your television, read books instead of magazines, shop responsibly, and encourage others to do the same. It goes without saying that this response lies outside the scope of a book ABOUT brands.
49 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2000
Naomi Klein has written a well-researched, comprehensive overview of the New World Order, dominated by brands like Nike, Starbucks and McDonalds. Backed by detailed statistics as well as onsite reporting, she captures the essence of the pervasive brand-building pushed globally by the transnationals, including the very real human and environmental costs. What I really appreciated was her extensive coverage of the growing resistance to the "brand bullies" in so many different forms. I read most of this while in Washington DC recently protesting the IMF and World Bank (A16). As a long-time activist as well as historian, I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in educating themselves about globalization-related issues.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2001
With in a few pages of this book I found a glaring error that somewhat negates Kliens argument. I'm refering to the claimed "astronomical" increase in advertising by corporations over 19 years. Klien shows a graph of year versus advertising expense (in billions). It starts at 50 billion (in the mid 70's) and grows to just under 200 billion in the late 1990s' (1996 I think). Anyway any first year finance student with a financial calculator can calculate what kind of increase this is. (ie present value = 50, future value = 195, n= 19 solve for interest) This calculation gives compounding annual percent increase of about 7.5 %. This, dear Naomi, is not by any stretch of imagination, is an "astronomical" rate of increase. It is essentially the rate of inflation. This is what would expect for any company that their expenses would rise with inflation. Note that share price growth rates far outstripped these advertising expenses. Infact looking at her figure (1.1 i think) you see that advertising costs basically followed the economic cycle with less spent in reccessions and more in the good times. You could draw a similar graph for wages expense etc. etc. Unfortunately the arguments constructed on the basis of "astronomical" increases of advertising expenses are therefore wrong as they as based on an incorrect premise.
This glaring bit of ignorance on the authors part causes the reader to question how else other data and information is incorrectly presented or mistakenly interpreted. To be credible the journalist/researcher/Naomi has to take a dispassionate stance and see what the numbers are actually saying rather than what you want them to say. Any thing less, and your fooling yourself and misleading your readers.
I'm not finished the book yet and I hope not to find another howler like this or I won't bother to keep going.
Ps. I'm finding the book interesting, I'm just very dissapointed in such a dreadful error in logic occurring so early in the book.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2005
This book is long, meandering, and sometimes makes mountains out of molehills. But Klein really sees the big picture of how the emerging global economy manifests itself in our trips to the mall and elsewhere. Despite some legitimate criticism this book has gotten, I took from it three core ideas that I challenge anyone to dispute:
1. Corporate branding pervades our lives. It is encroaching on our public institutions and there are less and less places that are free from the noise of advertising and logos. Also, brand quality now takes a back seat to brand image.
2. Globalism is creating a permanent third-world underclass that makes cheap stuff for shady contractors, hired by large firms who then market to us in the West. Most large retailers no longer manufacture anything and the companies that do are scattered across the poorest regions of the world, their labor vigilantly hidden from the consumer. Does a visit to a slaughterhouse make you hungry for a burger? A visit to a Chinese sweatshop might bum out your next trip to Old Navy.
3. Contract manufacturers absolutely do provide jobs in countries where options are limited but wages are often so low and conditions so brutal (not to mention the institutionalized union-busting), that they would absolutely shock most of us mall rats. On top of that, corporations generally sell the products at huge markups and reap obscene profits. That's called exploitation and it's immoral.
Update your thinking about the new global economy. There's more to it than that $5.99 Finding Nemo T-shirt at Wal-Mart. Read this book.
44 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2000
I know a few people who have made it all the way through Naomi Klein's "No Logo" now. Not just dipping into it. Not just reading the cool stuff about political activism. I know people who strapped on the grappling hooks and traversed the book the whole way through, from one side to the other.
You might think I'm making a big deal about getting the whole way through. It's just "No Logo" is one of those books. Like Don DeLillo's "Underworld". A book you feel you should read that you constantly put off. Well. I conquered Don DeLillo (it's worth it, it's worth it, the book is truly truly great), I won't let Naomi Klein beat me.
I started reading it alongside another book, a novel - figuring that the novel would offer light relief from the - weight of Naomi Klein's book. Only I ignored Naomi and read the novel instead. When I finished the novel and looked at "No Logo" (I was stuck on page 60, just before the photo of Richard Branson), I felt guilty and decided to devote myself to the cause: this wouldn't beat me, I would finish it and see what I could see.
Part of it was that I felt like a failure. That's what "No Logo" does. If you're not a political activist, if you're not campaigning to have sweatshops outlawed, if you haven't defaced a billboard or a website, if you want things - if you like things - (and by things, I mean everything from movies through to shoes), you will feel like a failure. You are not putting your time to the best possible use.
Which isn't to say "No Logo" is a bad book. By no means. "No Logo" is a great book. An important book (but, oh, how those words make your heart sink, right?). Naomi Klein is like a political God, an all-seeing eye. She knows everything. Such-and-such did such-and-such (which proved a failure because). Retrospect allows her to correct and revise. She is advancing a cause built on what happens next. Could be that what happens next is a damp squib. Nobody knows. Could be that what happens next changes everything.
You read "No Logo" and you want the world she wants. At the same time, you live in the world and you owe money and you have to pay bills and clothe your children and it's a hard thing to do. Political decisions are fine for those who are not daily chastised by the limits of what they can cope with. You are not an extreme. You are not living in an export processing zone. You work. You make money. Not enough money, but not 6 cents a day. Liberal guilt, liberal guilt, liberal guilt. You feel you are making excuses at the same time you think, no, I'm just living a life like a hundred million other people. What a terrible thing that is.
I'm a bad person. "No Logo" does not make me want to run out and change the world. Although it does help me understand those that have the privilege to run out and change the world, and applaud them (in a way). Part of me thinks that those free enough to campaign - people who don't have to work, or worry about debts, or wonder about what they are going to do next and can worry about what others are going to do next - haven't lived the life I've lived. And part of me thinks that I'm a bad person.
If you asked me, I'd say read "No Logo". For a whole host of reasons. If you asked me, I'd say attend the next reclaim the streets march. I'd say don't shop anywhere that treats you like money fodder. I'd say think and do whatever little you can, because whatever little is something. I'd say don't sneer at anyone. I'd say treat everybody with respect because not everybody knows what you know and not everybody has the freedom to make up their own mind.
If you asked me, I'd say read "No Logo".
36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2001
Pro-globalization or anti-globalization? Do we have to choose? This seems to be the central question, & this question is being discussed & looked at from all sorts of different angles, the last couple of years.
I have a good friend who is an anti-globalization activist. He also happens to be a communist, & has been going to all the big protests: his last one was in Genoa. I, on the other hand, haven't joined him in these protests, so far. It's not that I don't agree with much of what he's saying. It's just that I disagree with many of the means used to achieve the goal. I also disagree with the "them: bad, us: good" mentality. I find it very simplistic.
My friend & I have been having long, heated discussions, & we always seem to find common ground on some things...we also always disagree on other things. The important thing is that we always DISCUSS these things & try to see the other's point of view. This is one thing that made me skeptical about Naomi Klein's book. Where is the discussion? Where are the arguments that others use? It's a well known fact that to properly fight an opinion differing from your own, you have to really know a lot about this other opinion. You have to respect it, listen to it, & THEN fight it.
There are two ways to argue a point: you either start from a basic axiom which you want to defend, & find everything you can, in order to defend it. This, in my opinion, is a lot like religion: you either believe or you don't. Naomi Klein deeply, passionately believes in anti-globalization: so she gathers all arguments that support her view. These arguments are persuasive, & some of them are definitely fair ones. But I think this way of arguing is wrong, it's deeply flawed. There is another way, which is to take the opposite point of view, present it, & describe, using logic & persuasion, why it's wrong.
I also am a little bit sceptical about Naomi Klein's research. I'm not an economist, but there are some points that seem glaringly wrong: for example, inflation & different standards of living are not taken into account, at all. Wages in indonesia are compared to wages in the US, which seems to me a totally distorted way of looking at the issue. Naomi's argument would be far more persuasive if her research was more meticulous. It's a shame really, because what's she's trying to say is basically right: marketing & logos have intruded in every little part of our lives, & it's starting to feel suffocating. Also, the conditions under which people work in sweatshop factories are terrible, & this has been widely documented by various journalists. But I can't help thinking that there are 2 (or more) sides to this story, & that Naomi Klein has failed to present them fairly. This, in the end, makes "No logo" seem like a book saying "I have to convert you because I'm right" and not "I'm right because of this & that argument". This book seems more like preaching than anything else. It also reminded me of an argument that I've always distrusted: it goes something like this--either you're with us, or you're not. I happen to agree with some of the points that Naomi Klein is making, but I disagree with other points, & I strongly disagree with the research she's used to reach all her arguments. There is not always black or white: there are also shades of gray, & usually most of the truth can be found there.