You (my fictional reader) may have noticed that this blog has been a little quiet of late. And this, dear reader, is down to one reason alone: No Logo by Naomi Klein is not a quick read. It is one of those books that you have to make yourself read. When you slip into bed and all you really want is a flick through twitter and the more scurrilous pages of women’s mags, you do not want to reach for the red-and-black-bound 10th Anniversary Edition of “a cultural manifesto for the critics of unfettered capitalism worldwide.” David Copperfield slipped down more easily than this bugger.
Yes, it is one of the most enlightening things I have ever read about the operations of global corporations, and in particular global production of goods. However, it is also the first book I have ever read on those subjects. And it reads somewhat like propaganda.
I’m generally quick to think low of global corporations, and yet to be relentlessly told terrible things about them does bring out my rosiest feelings. Yes, contrary. But, as my wise economist friend pointed out, Klein would merrily have you believe that the private market should give up on even trying to do any good at all. Which I can’t believe. Is it really so bad that brands try and collect meaning around them so they can give users added value? So bad that brands write codes to improve their labour standards? Klein would almost have me believe that anything that isn’t initiated, carried out and evaluated by “the workers” is evil.
This is a simplification and, like No Logo, gives a too-one-sided account of my reaction to the book. I agree and feel inspired/suitably appalled by large sections. It is deeply true that unbranded public space and institutions are few and far between and I fail to interrogate the conflict of interest that many of these brand partnerships have on previously independent bodies. I was fascinated and horrified to learn the details of export processing zones. I was inspired to rethink ideas of corporate responsibility as it related to job creation and value in developed countries too. I valued Klein’s acknowledgement that even if one boycott means another evil is supported in stead, then at least there is a strong value in the public point made by the original boycott action. Huge sections were eye-opening and inspiring.
But – I’m left wanting to read a critique of the book so that I can leave with some balance rather than the uneasy sensation of having read partial information but not knowing which bit is partial.
Of course, having read No Logo, I am not going to read another account of the subjects concerned – I am rewarding myself with a hideous Mills and Boon. Balance, of another kind.