Monday, August 25, 2008

More Anti-Corporate Ranting (and Book Recommendation if You Agree)

I was hesitant to write yet another post on my growing anti-corporate sentiments. However, Naomi Klein's No Logo has become the manifesto of the anti-corporate movement, and it was a worth-while read.

Much of the content is quite dated. Klein did most of her research in the late 90s and the book was published in 2000. The version I read had an afterward written in 2002, which covered some post-9/11 complexities. That said, I often found asked myself what were today's equivalents of her examples of branding overload and corporate meddling.

However, I find her diagnosis on No Space, No Choice, and No Jobs still very relevant in our over-branded society and big-box dominated landscape. I'm grateful to live in Austin, where local businesses thrive, and for the most part, I've been able to cut myself off from such pervasive corporate encroachment.

I still hold the resentment Klein describes in the latter half of the book, and I still cringe every time I look at the labels on my clothes. Klein gives a detailed account of her visit to factories in the Philippines, and much of the evidence she presents is thorough and well-researched.

That said, I'm sure economists (especially those proponents of the free trade) have criticized this book to no end. As far as the sweatshop debate goes, I'm sticking to my commitment to only buy second-hand clothes and search for fair trade options. I have no doubt that Klein's descriptions were accurate and represent factory conditions across the developing world. Economists have to live with their consciences at the end of the day.

I found her exploration of advertising's growing role in our lives to be the most interesting (and disturbing). Klein describes the corporate pursuit of teenagers, and during the late 90s, I was a part of the crucial demographic and bought many of their promises. Gap jeans did not make my life better, but I was told they would. As a young adult 10 years later, I think my resentment has grown from that influence on my life as vulnerable teenager.

I have to wonder how many of my peers bother to question these things and explore any of their resentments. I think many of them are happy to go along with what their fed, as long as they can still get cheap clothes at Old Navy and lattes at Starbucks.

Overall, No Logo is incredibly thought-provoking, and I'm glad I read it. The book is slow towards the end, somewhat repetitive and tiresome (especially Klein's criticism of Nike). Nonetheless, it's an important read for anyone who is involved in media and interested in media criticism. I wish I had read it in college.

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