No Logo, by Naomi Klein

no logoNaomi Klein’s No Logo is now around 16 years old and its content ought to be out-dated, but apart from some minor details it’s no less relevant now than the day it was written.

The political and commercial situations she describes are still familiar. If anything they have become too familiar, to the point of being seen as “normality”: that it’s normal and therefore acceptable to outsource manufacturing to sweatshops in less regulated parts of the world, where practically non-existent safety regulations and ridiculously low paid workers help increase the profits of Western brands and lower the price for western buyers.

This is the reality that is barely considered by most western consumers who expect the “right” to a decent wage, but don’t want to pay what is required for people elsewhere to have that same right.

The relevance of Klein’s book remains because we in the west continue to turn a blind eye to what goes on behind the scenes of our favoured brands.

No Logo shows the extent of the exploitative business practices used by major western companies. The exposé is so comprehensive that the strength of the quantity of evidence could also become the book’s weakness. There is so much to take in, and its easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. What could we do to bring equitable change when the problem is so widespread? The exploitative corporate practices being highlighted seem to spread completely across the board, leaving no acceptable alternatives to favour and therefore few (if any) viable options of boycotting offending brand owners.

So what can be done to work towards a workable, equitable solution?
I don’t see that Klein offers one. She describes the actions of diverse groups trying to make a difference in a variety of ways, but most of them seem (at best) naively optimistic.

The best options try to raise awareness and stir public opinion towards a desire for change; but success is conditional upon the majority actually being moved enough to insist on changes that are likely to have a personal cost. The possibility of stirring that desire rests upon the assumption of the majority having an innate sense of fairness to drive them to demand justice for others who could otherwise be kept “out of sight, out of mind”.

But even IF a majority did have that motivating sense of fairness there would be the problem of HOW to respond in a constructive and focused way that would lead massively profitable companies to change their ways.

I’d like to be optimistic, but…