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.