Skip to main content

No Logo revisited - book review

It's around 20 years since Naomi Klein's book No Logo was written (it was published in 2000). As it's generally regarded as an influential piece of writing, I thought it would be worthwhile revisiting it.

At the time, I thought it was an interesting book, if naive and painfully overwritten. Coming back to it, there were two immediate responses. One was to really be aware how much it would have benefitted from a serious edit - it's 490 pages of tiny print and probably only has the content of around five magazine articles. The rest is words for the sake of it and repetition. It's still worth reading, but it's unnecessarily hard work. The other is an element of plus ça change etc.

Inevitably part of the fascination of looking back is what has changed - although some of the big brands remain, others such as Virgin Megastores, Blockbuster, Benneton and Staples have disappeared or diminished, while the likes of Google weren't on the radar then. And neither Klein's anti-brand rebellion nor some of the nasty brand trends foreseen have come about.

I must admit, in part because it's such a US-oriented book, I didn't recognise some of the problems discussed, e.g. branding in schools, while branded stores becoming theme park-like destinations have never really happened over here.

It was interesting that one of Klein's bugbears was corporate censorship - for example, supermarkets deciding not to carry a particular magazine because they didn't like its ethos - when such censorship is now more likely to come from student unions.

It certainly isn't all bad. No Logo is a useful reminder of how relatively recent the move from vertical manufacturing, where companies made their own goods, to brand plus suppliers has been - and the potential problems this approach can bring (which haven't gone away). It's also good and still very relevant, given the 'gig economy', in the way that Klein points out that being freelance is good for some types of job, but is far from being a panacea.

Overall, though, bearing in mind our greater awareness now of social media bubbles, what came across strongly was how much of a bubble view of the world it was. So, taking on the two main UK stories covered, one was about the McLibel trial and the other about Reclaim the Streets. The McLibel trial had real impact on the relationship between corporates and activists and, while a farce, probably did a fair amount of good. But if you took Klein's picture of Reclaim the Streets (a few 'street parties' that stopped traffic as Extinction Rebellion has more recently), you would think it had transformed UK opinion, where the majority of the population away from a few fashionable bits of London and the odd trendy city were pretty much unaware of it at the time, let alone now. Nothing happened, except some irritating disruption.

Despite that bubble view, though, it's an important bit of US-centred social history and reminds us that we continue to need to keep an eye on those pesky corporations.

No Logo is available from and which is by far the most ironic place to purchase it.


Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope