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Naomi Klein, No logo : taking aim at the brand bullies. (2000) ISBN 0-676-97282-9 (alternate, search)

From the back cover...

No Logo uncovers a betrayal of the central promises of the information age: choice, interactivity and increased freedom. Equal parts cultural analysis, political manifesto, mall-rat memoir and journalistic exposé, No Logo takes apart our packaged world and puts the pieces into clear economic and social perspective. Naomi Klein vividly tracks the mounting activist resistance to globalization; explains why some of the most revered brands are finding themselves on the wrong end of a bottle of spray paint, a computer hack, or an international anticorporate campaign; and tells us why so many young people are taking to the streets to demand a more just world.

See also this excellent [critique] of NoLogo's pretentiousness, as summarized for ThisMagazine?.

I don't see what's excellent about this critique at all. As far as I can see it makes these points :

1) In fact the criticism of consumerism probably goes back to KarlMarx?. So what? It is part of understanding how capitalism constructs culture and is a valid criticism. Doesn't matter whether it's old or not. The only question is whether it's true. ThisMagazine? doesn't seem to wield any arguments as to this last question.

2) FightClub? and AmericanBeauty? aren't part of Klein's analysis. Whether they work or not or are confused or not isn't an issue for NoLogo.

3) This tension is itself a construction of capitalism which assumes all "quality" things should be artificially restricted to those who can pay for them. Sure, some resources are scarce. But culture and friendship and "each other" aren't. "Obscure bands" are no more expensive to copy onto a CD than "mainstream" ones. There is an individuality which is available to everyone - independent of capitalism. Go and look at language. Or traditional music. Or folklore. In other words, at culture. All these things enjoyed (and enjoy) regional variation without the help of capitalist productization. On the contrary, it is cultural capitalism, trying to get the most out of EconomiesOfScale? and trying to sell the same music and images and styles around the world that leads to a mass-culture. Individuality in these domains comes at the cost merely of connecting with yout peers.

So yeah. Maybe it is valid to argue that we can't defeat capitalism by simply consuming "better" brands; although we can help to defeat some of it's worst aspects by choosing to consume more local produce from within our communities. Nevertheless, this point being right, actually highlights what's really wrong with the review.

4) About half of Klein's book is already explicitly talking about this problem. Talking about the irony of her late 80's brand of "identity politics" being co-optable and co-opted by capital. One of the strongest themes in the book is her attempt to analyse how this was possible and her attempt to shift attention away from identity issues back towards real economic exploitation. So at the end of the review, where they point out that simply "downshifting" or trying to consume your way out of the probem won't work, is fine. But Klein is consistently saying exactly the same thing. She spends more time with LaborUnion organizers or on the piqueteiros of Argentina than on AdBusters. Sure she talks about brand boycotts but as one tool and an example of people's new politicised consciousness of brands. And the last chapter is a discussion of why brand-oriented politics aren't sufficient.

At best, this review's heart is in the right place. But their understanding of NoLogo comes off the back of a cereal packet. And at worse, they are just participating in a gratuitous cat-fight against Klein to whip up publicity for their own book.

-- PhilJones

My reaction was very similar. [1] The point Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter make is that anti-consumerism is often just anti-mass society -- and being against mass society is an old thing. The authors claim that most statements that are taken to be anti-consumerism statements are in fact statements against mass society and /pro/ consumerism. That is an interesting angle.

However, I'm not sure the authors are not twisting anti-consumerism statements in order to make their point. The examples they use are sometimes astonishingly simple-minded (eg. the part about Naomi Klein's loft). I have a hard time believing those are for real.

Another thing to consider is that maybe these statements are statements against mass society full stop. If you're not against consumerism but against mass society, what's wrong with that? I'd have to verify that the examples they cite are in fact claimed to be statements against consumerism.

Personally, I'm not happy with all the waste that goes together with consumerism. It is not immediately obvious to me that consumerism always has to go together with waste, however. If there was a way of providing status symbols without the waste, then I'm not sure it would be worth the effort of fighting against it. If people buy "organic" food (as I do) as a status symbol (dunno why I do it...) -- then what's wrong with that?

-- AlexSchroeder

What appealed to me is not so much the arguments about or against consumerism, which I think are better articulated in the book ShoppingForIdentity, but the fact that NaomiKlein used to be the Editor of This magazine, one who help put This! magazine on the map of the wider, radical progressive left-wing movement in Canada, away from its traditional roots in Rousseauean education. This has always had this tension about whether they are about pedagogy or about values, and you might recall how pissed I was that they didn't cover QuebecCity--which is when I dropped my subscription.

So, the background context is that This Magazine is currently in a fight or die campaign to save itself by gaining a 'Net audience in some sort of blog-and-buy strategy. That they are taking a swing at their former and incredibly famous Editor makes me think they are trying to achieve some sort of notoriety by a (dangerous?) game of extreme self-deprecation, and thus punch their own audience in the eye in order to achieve a response. I think it succeeds since it made it onto BlogDex. Moreover, it's like a call to This's readers and NoLogo's to say, "What the fuck?" and maybe define what they are doing. And also, NaomiKlein has totally pulled an end run around This (just compare http://www.nologo.org to http://www.thismagazine.ca) so maybe the Editors at This have some motivation to be snippy.

I suppose I should disclaim that the person who sits next to me at the 215 Centre for Social Innovation is working on This Magazine's new campaign, and it had been a long-term goal of mine to build This a 'Net presence like this. But that's not really relevant to this link since I found it on BlogDex.

I think I've been working in propoganda for too long. (Eight months?) In hindsight, using Meatball for these kinds of mind games seems like a mistake, and I'm sorry I made the link. I'd prefer Meatball to be truthful. Maybe we could just axe it? -- SunirShah

I just started reading this very thick book, so I can't really say much about it right now. I just quoted the back cover, although I secretly suspect that the publisher just tried sexing up the book with the current "hot" topics on people's minds. I will summarize more as time goes on, I guess. At least I'll be by a net connection while I read it. [SunirsReadingDeficit?]

In the meantime, here are some ideas inspired by the book, if not necessarily gleaned from them. They should be moved somewhere else as soon as I find the somewhere else to put them.

[NoLogo.org] is a companion web site to the book. It used to run on SlashCode (the software that powers SlashDot), which allowed people to submit stories and comments. However, in early 2003, the site was redesigned and SlashCode was dumped; the interactive and collaborative elements of the site were removed. The reasoning behind the change:

Organizing the many submissions in a way that was navigable to readers unfamiliar with the issues or new to the site became increasingly challenging and then overwhelming. And readers didn't seem to be that interested in debating on-line?maybe wisely recognizing that important debates about ideologies, strategies and tactics are most valuable when they take place between people whose common projects and shared commitment to justice and resistance allow those exchanges to transcend the merely academic.

Perhaps part of the problem was with SlashCode itself: it requires an individual or an editoral board to select and post submissions. A bottleneck develops when the editors are swamped with submissions. The ScoopEngine eliminates this problem by letting the community decide what stories are accepted or rejected. A more radical solution would be to migrate to a WikiLog. This would turn NoLogo.org into a self-organizing resource, allowing various activities communities to discover their own interconnections.

I agree with the radical solution of migrating to a WikiLog. The problem I have been struggling with is how to introduce wiki to people so they can more easily understand the nature of self organization that is possible. Do we know the folks over at NoLogo? Best, MarkDilley (putting some resources together at YpsiEyeball?:MarkDilley/WikiEducation?)

No, I don't know them, but I'm planning to email them anyway and make a few suggestions. I think a Scoop/Wiki combination would work best for them; I'll have to check if the planned wiki plugin for Scoop has been developed yet. -- StephenGilbert

CategoryBook CategoryOnlineCommunity (it used to be, anyway)


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