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review 2017-07-04 19:46
A rallying cry towards unity, care, and humanism.
No Is Not Enough - Naomi Klein

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher, Penguin Books UK-Allen Lane, for providing me with an ARC e-copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I have a long list of books to read and I am trying to organise it somehow, mostly in order of acquisition, but this book arrived just as I had finished reading another book and it stuck in my mind. It is a very current and momentous book, so it was for the best that I read it promptly.

I am familiar with the name of Naomi Klein and I have seen many of her books and read about her and her ideas, but this is the first book I have read by her (I have read some short articles but although I kept seeing books by her that sounded interesting, it was usually when I was doing research on an unrelated topic or at a time when I could not read them and this time I grabbed the opportunity).

The book builds on much of her previous work, particularly on the issue of brands and how they have come to dominate our lives (the subject of No Logo) and also how politics and politicians exploit any disasters and shocks to impose ever harsher neo-liberal economic policies (that she discusses in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism) and applies it to the current situation, particularly to Trump’s election and his policies since.

I started highlighting text through the book, to the point that sometimes I would be doing something and listening to the text to speech version and would have to stop to highlight something. This happened very often and I realised Klein was saying many of the things I had been thinking and some that I had not thought of but I recognised and agreed with as I read them. Her reflections about Trump as a brand and his presidency as the latest feather to add to this brand made sense (I learned new things about him and was reminded of others that had long forgotten but helped to build up a clear picture). It was curious that she referred to his time in the Apprentice and his appearances in WWE (televised professional wrestling) as (in a certain way) training for what was to come. She noted that some of his behaviours during the campaign were very similar to those of the fighters in WWE. And lo and behold, a few hours after I had read that part of the book, Trump tweeted the doctored video of one of his appearances in the WWE putting the CNN logo instead of the head of Vince McMahon, whom he was pretending to punch. And if I had already thought that was a very convincing comparison when I read it, even more so now.

The book is well-written, easy to read (well, or not, depending on what your point of view and your political leanings are), and develops the thesis that although many are shocked by Trump’s rise to power (and Brexit), it was not a total surprise, and there are people, organisations, and even whole countries who have resisted the move towards materialism and brands where only things, money, and profits matter, and where fingers are pointed at sectors of the population (immigrants, asylum seekers, ethnic minorities, women, environmentalists…)  who become the scapegoats for a situation they are the victims of. Klein looks at many of these groups and populations and how they have resisted the situation and taken a stand but she also notes that something else is required. Resisting and saying no is important, and it does not matter how big or small we are, we can all do it, but we need to find something to aim for, something that can unite us and something we can fight together for.

She discusses in detail the importance of trying to find common ground, rather than working for small goals, and states that the way the political centre has tried to introduce minor changes will not suffice. As an example of what could be done she focuses on the meeting that took place in Canada, bringing many groups together (unions, environmentalists, indigenous people, women’s groups, groups working towards racial equality…) and that produced the Leap Manifesto, because they think a leap is required to truly change things. We must leap towards hope and dare to embrace a revolutionary way of changing the world.

She notices the rise of dystopian fiction (and films) and the ever growing popularity of some classics (Orwell’s 1984) that she observes are a warning (not necessarily a prediction) and says we need more utopias; we need to be able to think of a better future. And she writes (and as she quotes a big favourite of mine, Oscar Wilde, I could not resist sharing it):

Because, as Oscar Wilde wrote in 1891, “a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.”

I read some of the comments on the book, and they are separated along ideological lines. I agree that perhaps she uses examples that might not be as simply black or white as she makes them sound, and I also agree (and thought the same as I read it), that perhaps the Leap Manifesto falls short of going as far as it should (as it offers and statement of good intentions but not much in the way of implementation) although it is an attempt at reaching an agreement and a compromise between very different groups, so it is not surprising that it is not all that radical. I must clarify that I read an ARC copy and therefore did not have access to what I have read are very extensive notes at the end of the final version of the book. Without the notes, it is not a very long book.

The book made me think of an essay we had to write, when I was studying American Literature at the University of Sussex, discussing what could have been done, or rather, what could be done in the present, to somehow repair the gap between whites and African Americans in the US that comes from the time of slavery and was discussed after the Civil War and the freeing of all slaves, a gap that has never been fully resolved (as we all know). At the time of the Reconstruction, the suggestion had been that each freed slave be given 40 acres of land (therefore redistributing the slave owners’ property) and a mule (if you’ve ever wondered why Spike Lee’s production company is called that and never checked, now you know) so they could build up a life for themselves. Of course, that did not happen (or only in few cases) but I remember that after talking to the professor I did write a somewhat utopic essay that he could not fault for its reach, although he could not see how any government would go down that route. (I’ve been looking for it but I think it must have been in one of the floppy disks that disintegrated, although I might have a paper copy. I’ll investigate).  It also made me think about how much emphasis on brands is made, even in the world of writing, and how a lot of the advice to sell anything (a physical product or anything else) is to create a brand and market yourself (rather than the product). As she notes, if you are swimming in the world of media, in whatever capacity, it is very difficult not to be swamped by the allure of branding and its fraught logic. This is something that I have been thinking more and more about recently, and something that I care for less and less. Yes, perhaps this book arrives at the right moment, at least for me, but hopefully for many others too.

As I said, I highlighted a lot of content, and of course, I cannot share it all. But I could not resist and had to share a few bits.

First, one that shows her wit (and that made me write: olé! as a comment)

The truth, which doesn’t sound nearly as glamorous, is that the Trump brand stands for wealth itself or, to put it more crassly, money. That’s why its aesthetics are Dynasty-meets-Louis XIV. It’s why Trump’s relationship to gold is the inverse of Superman’s relationship to kryptonite: Trump crumples when he is more than three feet away from something big and shiny.

This one I think will give you an idea of what the book is about, in her own words:

We have to question not only Trump but the stories that ineluctably produced him. It’s not enough to superficially challenge him as an individual, foul and alarmingly ignorant though he may be. We have to confront the deep-seated trends that rewarded him and exalted him until he became the most powerful person in the world.  The values that have been sold to us through reality TV, get-rich-quick books, billionaire saviors, philanthrocapitalists. The same values that have been playing out in destroyed safety nets, exploding prison numbers, normalized rape culture, democracy-destroying trade deals, rising seas and privatized disaster response, and in a world of Green Zones and Red Zones.

And I love the way she ends the book (do not worry, it is not a spoiler):

 My deepest thanks are for patient little Toma, who missed his mom over these last months, but feels strongly that, “Donald Trump is too rude to be president.

This book is not for everybody and if you really like Trump and what he stands for, or do not care about climate change and other issues such as the rights of women, equality, diversity, the rights of indigenous people… I’d advise you not to read it. If you don’t, I’d recommend you check a sample of the writing and see if it speaks to you. I now know why she is so well-known and respected. A compelling writer, whatever one’s political views.

 

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video 2016-07-12 23:34
No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs - Naomi Klein
Source: youtu.be/-nOiRvuegkk
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review 2016-01-31 09:14
The Rise of the Corporatocracy
No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs - Naomi Klein

As I mentioned under The Shock Doctrine, this book is about the internal problems with the American Empire as opposed to the external concerns to the rest of the world. In a sense it is the idea that our culture is being destroyed by a culture of consumerism and that idea of profits before people is the main motivator of the modern corporatocracy. We do need to put this book in context though, being written at the end of the 90s, just after the anti-globalisation protests in Seattle, an event referred to by many as the Battle of Seattle. I guess the events really brought to the forefront how the American Government was willing to go to war with its own people to protect the interests of the corporatocracy. However, remember that between 1989 and 2001 there was no real external threat to the United States, and as such there was no way of distracting the population to an external threat, so another means of distracting them was required. The concept of the brand is not new, however it is during this period that we begin to see a rise against the corporatocracy which resulted in a rejection of the militaristic foreign policy of the early 21st Century.

 

I am going to be honest though, there is nothing different now than there was during the rest of US history, though I will point to the writings of Howard Zinn to direct you to the discrimination and oppression that has been a mainstay of American, and in fact world, history. Things have changed though, and one of the major things was the rise of the middle class. The appearance of the middle class did bring about massive changes in modern society, and one had resulted in the French Revolution. However, industrialisation also brought about the rise of the working class. With the appearance of the working class, the middle class was allowed to develop whereas the working class were then oppressed. However, with the rise of communism, and the fear of a world wide revolution, the working class was appealed to, and universal healthcare (at least in the British Empire) as well as minimum wages and benefits, were introduced. The problem with this was that hiring labour became much more expensive.

 

Now I seem to have diverged a bit, though in many cases I tend to like to try to put a few things in context. Now, I do very much agree with Klein's assessment here, however I do feel that there are a few misleading ideas, such as the idea of cheap labour in poorer countries. Now, don't get me wrong, I am opposed to the mistreatment of any human being, and am opposed to unsafe and discriminatory work practices. This was something that was thrown out of the western world over 100 years ago, however it has simply moved to the developing world. Low wages are not necessarily the problem though, since if you do travel to these places you will discover that the low prices of goods there more than makes up for the low wages. For instance, it costs around $100 a night to stay in a hotel in Melbourne, while it costs $30 a night in Hong Kong, and in Bangkok I found a hotel for $14 (though my friend's comment was that it was probably a pretty shitty hotel). However, low wages are still a problem, but what makes things worse is cost cutting as a means to increase profits. If, for instance, the manufacturer cuts costs so that the worker is working long hours, has no breaks, is not allowed to go to the toilet, and the workplace is so unsafe that accidents regularly happen, then that is not good. However, the price of the shoes, or the shirt, in Australia does not change, despite the factory in Australia closing down and the one in Asia opening up. This is not a means to make the goods cheaper, but a means to increase the profits of the corporation, and in turn the shareholders. No only are the workers being exploited, but so are the consumers in Australia.

 

One thing she talks about is the concept of space. Basically space is being taken over by the corporatocracy. Once one would go shopping on the main street and spend some time in the town park. That is no longer the case: main street has closed down and much of the activity has moved to the shopping centre. There is a big difference between the town centre and the shopping centre and that is that the town centre is a public space while the shopping centre is not. What that means is that the owner of the shopping centre has complete control over what goes on there, thus creating an ordered and sheltered place where people can go and spend money and not be disturbed. However I have noted that at times The Body Shop have plastered their shop with anti-corporate logos, even in the middle of a Westfield Shopping Centre.

 

The further idea of no space is that all of our space is being taken up with advertising, and that the main thought forms of today is the brand logo. However branding once again in not new. Christianity has been using the brand logo for centuries, and in many was it has brought about the development of the brand as a means of advertising. The brand has also been used in the past to mark possession, such as slaves or cattle. However, you could say that the modern brand also marks possession. We see the swoosh on a shirt or my shoes and we know that they are Nikes. Nothing more needs to be said, but then I raise the question of whether those of us who wear the brand are in fact possessions of the company. I would say not, however to me it is a means of cheap advertising, though the cheapest form of advertising is always word of mouth. Personally, I must admit, I like Coopers Pale Ale, and as such I will wear a T-shirt with the brand on it (though I should also point out that the T-shirt was given to me as a gift). I guess, if the brand was a brand that I didn't like, then I wouldn't be wearing it (unless of course I was paid to do so, then I wouldn't have a problem, unless of course it was something that I was violently opposed to).

 

Some have suggested that the modern corporatocracy is launching a war against the middle class. To be honest I am going to dispute that namely because the corporatocracy needs the middle class, and even a cash flushed working class, to survive. Things have changed dramatically since this book was published, as the corporatocracy attempted to increase profits by increasing availability of credit. However, the more people got into debt, the less of an ability they have to pay it back, and when they cannot pay it back the debt must be written off. Come 2008, the entire economy reaches the brink of collapse, and the banks have not yet recovered. The economy survived, barely, and some still say it is on life support. However, many of the masters of the economy have fallen from grace, but this was not through the actions of demonstrators and protesters, but through their own greed. In the end it is much like a Shakespearian tragedy.

 

As mentioned, the corporatocracy need the people to survive, to create and grow their profits, but they have effectively reached critical mass. All of the jobs that filled the pockets of American workers have gone overseas, and as such these workers have been left without anything. Further, their savings accounts have also been drained and their credit has been maxed out, therefore they no longer have any money left to partake in the consumer society. Sure, the staples such as Walmart and McDonalds can survive because everybody needs food, but the others can't. Instead, with no money left to suck out of the working class, they need to look elsewhere for support, and unfortunately that does not exist in the developing world. The workers there are still underpaid and cannot afford the luxuries of the west. Therefore, in the end, the corporatocracy is its own worst enemy, and its endless pursuit of power and profits is going to be its own undoing.

 

Though I still love the free market capitalist who hated short sellers. I know this has nothing to do with this book, but I have to mention it. It is typical of the hippocracy of the extreme capitalist. They love the free market right up to the point that the market spins around and smacks them in the face, then they will jump in with regulations in an attempt to protect their profits. All I can say is if you want a free market, then you have to accept all of the free market, both good and bad. Personally, I see nothing wrong with short sellers, and in fact I actually quite like them because they piss off the capitalist to no end.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/323594123
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review 2012-08-18 00:00
No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs
No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs - Naomi Klein Yea but no but...

It was a nice try, and while I could probably agree on many levels with the author, I still call Klein a hippie.

I have always thought it to be wholly unreasonable to demand and to sincerely expect anyone and everyone to offer their own plan as to how things should be done as opposed to how we do things now. This is preposterous. Anyone who can come up with valid arguments why things currently are amiss and why they should be remedied, must be allowed to voice their opinion despite not necessarily being able to personally formulate (then and there, or even at all) an alternative, better, way of doing things.

It's cool if you can, but it shouldn't be a qualification for even being allowed to enter the debate. There isn't a single person on this planet who could come up with a perfect plan because there are no perfect plans! Almost no one will admit that capitalism is without glitches, but many will assert with gusto that capitalism just requires a little bit of tweaking and some tender loving care.

This is absolute nonsense.

Of course we could always have better democracy. People could easily be given more and better options to vote for changes, for example. We could have "local governments" with localized budgets within different parts of cities to enable those people living there to make concrete decisions and plans that will affect their everyday lives directly. We could do loads to improve democracy, trust me.

We could also find ways to actually sustain businesses and private individuals to operate in a free market reality - not just in free market make-believe. This would most likely mean that players who began to dominate markets need to be split in one way or the other to enable other and especially up-and-coming individuals and companies to compete against them in much more fairer conditions. Unlike now, no one could really rest on their laurels and/or just buy off competition. Everyone wanting to play the game would have to be innovating and reinventing themselves constantly. Not now and then, or once in a blue moon, but every single day.


Stuff that I personally can't accept is:

a) corporations aiming to change schools' curriculums and subtly trying to greenwash their own history and business practices - in a word their public image.

b) corporations cornering smaller competitors by dumping prices until local/regional competition is snuffed for good.

c) corporations gaining even bigger share of the markets simply because they can buy other competitors out if they can afford it. This is the exact opposite of what Adam Smith called free market economy. This is rule of the few and finally rule of one.

And if and when corporations reach a status where they can effectively sensor what people can and can not buy, should be called totalitarianism because that's what it is when you can't buy a book or some other product from anywhere else simply because those few corporations still left will refuse to take them up for sell.

d) allowing corporations to grow so big and powerful that they can effectively land in places where they are not taxed, where they can disregard local laws and regulations at will, where they can effectively treat their labor force and the environment any way they want.

Even if some poor, underprivileged, schmuck wouldn't mind how the company does business, I abso-f*cking-lutely do, and I'm not the only one! If you pollute the environment (or treat your employees like dirt), you clean up the mess, pay hefty fines, and take some time off from doing business for the time being because you clearly are not a responsible and trustworthy player and the society as a whole can and will not tolerate such behavior. Simple and fair, and not complex or mean at all.

If this what we have today is free market economy, we might as well reintroduce chains and just revert to calling workforce as slaves again. I mean why not? We already love to call unemployed people - I'm sorry, "job seekers" - as cancer, vermins, and so on. I don't know about you but to me it echos 1930's Germany.

I think it's pretty vile view on life if and when (read [b:In Defense of Global Capitalism|222574|In Defense of Global Capitalism|Johan Norberg|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348353328s/222574.jpg|215553]) people in effect say that it's still miles better to be working in a sweatshop somewhere and get paid at least something than having to resort to selling one's own ass to anyone keen on buying or just starving to death.

This line of thinking not only legitimizes wretchedness and indecency. It guarantees that nothing will ever change for the better.

Now, I may think that hippies are moronic bunch of people, but folks who try to reason the above scenario disgust me to no end. Especially coming from a guy who got all the chances in the world provided by the society in a socialist paradise called Sweden. I wonder if he would have had the same tolerance for pain, strength of character and general will power to take it up his small boy's ass from some anonymous older, charming Swedish gentlemen, had he been born in the slums of India, Brazil or Vietnam and be asked to help his family and relatives by all means necessary - and there either not being any sweatshops around or all just refusing to let him work?

I'm sure he would have.
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review 2011-07-27 00:00
No Logo
No Logo - Naomi Klein Acknowledgements
Introduction: A Web of Brands


--No Logo

Notes
Appendix
Reading List
Photo Credits
Index
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