Against Consumerism: A Look at Naomi Klein’s book “No Logo”
The world we live in today is vastly different than the world that existed fifty years ago. There have many been many changes, some bringing obvious benefits to our society, others more questionable in their attributes. Today we are defined by the emblem on our shirt and the decal on the hood of our car. All around us multinational corporations place their mark in pursuit of a larger market. We live in a logo’ed world, but in Naomi Klein’s book “No Logo”, the brand name’s rise to power is brought to question.
Klein takes a hard opposition to our corporate world and makes some compelling arguments against the business enterprises of these brands. I think it is her intention to inform us of how we are being both manipulated and deceived by consumerism. We buy products with highly inflated prices just because it is made by a brand we trust, or it is the brand in style. We make the assumption that these products are superior to others because that is what the company has built themselves up to be through advertising schemes. Klein says there has been a transition over the last century from a trust in a shopkeeper to tell us the best product to use, to a trust in a brand name for superior products. The irony in this is that more often than not these products we view as better are being produced in the same subcontracted factories as their no name counterparts.
If these prices are so inflated shouldn’t this money be passed onto the workers producing the goods? While this would seem to be the appropriate gesture it is nothing more than an altruistic dream. The bottom line for many of these super brands is profit. If an Indonesian manufacturing plant can produce their products for a cheaper price, the jobs will be outsourced saving the company a handsome sum of money and allowing them to keep a “competitive price”. Even the foreign investment in these third world nations, in the long run has done nothing more than erode their local economies. Workers there are forced into inhuman working conditions for wages that are so low they can barely afford to feed themselves, let alone invest in their communities. Export processing zones are put in place by countries offering tax free trade and lax work regulations for a limited time in hopes of gaining a lasting base of foreign investment. These companies through their subcontractors unfortunately are only there for the incentives and when they run out, they find a way to keep them going or leave. This is the dirty little secret of the corporate world. Many companies do everything within their power to keep their places of production a mystery.
The globalization that has taken over our world today creates a mask for major corporations to hide behind. With such complex global assembly lines it is extremely difficult to track down the source of a companies manufacturing. The things we buy come from all over the world now and while this makes for a wonderful variety of products it creates an ambiguity about what we are buying. Without access to this information a public cannot make any educated decisions about the quality and morality of a corporation. Advertising is the only thing many people know about the brands they buy. When people are told this product is the best and that this company cares about the good of humanity, what are they to believe? In the meantime these brands are having their products produced for rock bottom prices no matter the human cost. Klein’s goal in her book is to inform the public of these issues because that is the only way any real change can come about.
In my own experience I find the consumer trends described in the book to be very real. Everywhere I look around me I can see the brand names of companies striving for market domination. I see students walking around in Lacoste polos and Nike shoes. Everyone it seems has bought into the idea of brands and if not often have trouble fitting in with their peers. We have also however found our own ways around the clout of these big brands. We shop at discount stores and buy imitation products undermining the market for the real products. It is my hope that as books like “No Logo” come out and the public becomes better informed the power held by the companies will be taken away. Maybe then when we buy something, we will know what exactly has been put into that product.