Sunday, January 25, 2009

"No Logo" Remains The Essential Critique On The Injustices Of Globalization

No Logo by Naomi Klein. Illustrated. 522 pp. Picador. $15.00 (paperback)

Naomi Klein’s No Logo is essential to understanding the anti-globalization protests against the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, including the 1999 protests against the latter in Seattle.

Klein outlines the strategy behind corporate branding, in which lifestyle and image are emphasized over products: “The old paradigm had it that all marketing was selling a product. In the new model…the brand, and the selling of the brand acquired an extra component that can only be described as spiritual.”

One result of the disassociation from products is the farming out of labor to the Third World, often to export processing zones where multinationals find “…tax breaks, lax regulations and the services of a military willing and able to crush labor unrest.” If sweatshop workers try to unionize for better wages and conditions, there is always the threat of factories pulling up stakes and relocating. The companies can directly affect public policy by “help[ing] draft international trade agreements to reduce quotas and tariffs, or even lobby a government directly to loosen regulations.”

While conditions in western countries are not as dire, the rise of temps, part-timers and freelancers are symptomatic of the same marketing strategies: “The underbelly of the shiny ‘brands, not products’ revelation can be seen increasingly in every workplace around the globe. …offering employment–the steady kind…has fallen out of economic fashion.” Again, companies such as McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and Starbucks regularly resort to union busting at home, just as they do abroad.

Klein describes various tactics employed against corporate abuse, including selective purchasing agreements in which local legislators refuse to buy goods and services from targeted companies. She criticizes voluntary codes of conduct drawn up by corporations and advocates enforceable international laws: “The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights already recognizes the right to freedom of association. If respecting that right became a condition of trade and investment, it would transform the free trade zones overnight.”

The author is somewhat vague when she describes “participatory democracy at the local level” to counteract the “centralization of power and distant decision making” represented by multinationals and the bodies that fashion laws favoring them. Nevertheless, No Logo remains the most influential analysis of globalization and its many attendant injustices.


Anok said...

Out of curiosity - what did Klein say, if anything, about protectionist policies?

Jeff Tone said...

Anok: Interesting question. Actually, Klein didn't concentrate on such domestic initiatives as protectionism. Her focus was more international and her proposals at the end of the book dealt with possible laws that protect labor and the environment globally.

media monkey said...

I definitely want to read this!

In sorting articles for Ellen Rosen's upcoming book on Wal-Mart's labor practices I have come across many pieces that discuss the abusive practices similar to what Klein writes about. Piles of articles on lawsuits and demonstrations and the way Wal-Mart has grown and wiped out smalltown businesses... among these ive also come across sort of guidebooks that are intended for the Wal-Mart managers/admin that spell out the best ways to counter unions.

I do not think that Klein's and Rosen's books, however, are all-inclusively anti-globalization.... but more specifically anti-corporate-abuse.

According to wiki quoting the United Nations ESCWA 'globalization' is a widely-used term that can be defined in a number of different ways. When used in an economic context, it refers to the reduction and removal of barriers between national borders in order to facilitate the flow of goods, capital, services and labour...although considerable barriers remain to the flow of labour...Globalization is not a new phenomenon. It began in the late nineteenth century, but its spread slowed during the period from the start of the First World War until the third quarter of the twentieth century. This slowdown can be attributed to the inwardlooking policies pursued by a number of countries in order to protect their respective industries...The pace of globalization picked up rapidly during the fourth quarter of the twentieth century..."[3]

The abuses the come with globalization are coupled with benefits. As one might argue who has read The Postmodern Turn, this system, like all systems is riddled with complexities, and can hardly be defined in a Machiavellian absolutist manner.

media monkey said...

Which is not to say that a system that has been dominated by corporate abuse is not generally more harmful than good, but globalization in itself, as a method of unifying and expanding trade and modernizing the third world has all the potential to be a great force when managed with the people in mind.

Jeff Tone said...

Media Monkey: True, but we remain too far from a proper formulation and enforcement of environmental and labor standards.

Jeff Tone said...

Media Monkey: Klein's problem with globalization is related to the lack of environmental and labor standards.

I think that the abuses of globalization have outweighed the benefits. It has not benefitted the exploited workers in developing countries, nor has it done much for American workers whose jobs have been shipped overseas. Globalization has done wonders for the CEOs of major corporations, though.