Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ideology of Naomi Klein's No Logo

Author and social activist Naomi Klein’s book No Logo, published in 2000, quickly became the anti-globalization movement’s version of The Monkey-Wrench Gang. For this project, I’ll be analyzing the documentary that was made of the book.

The link can be seen here:

Klein uses the phrase “no logo” to capture what she calls the “spirit of anti-corporate resistance.” The documentary hinges upon several binaries, mainly public vs. private space and old advertising vs. new advertising. Much of the documentary focuses on branding. The goal of branding is to send a “message of consistency and quality.”

Klein explains that branding began as a way to create “surrogate relationships” since so much of the local goods consumers were used to get were starting to be replaced by factory goods imported from hundreds of miles away. Early brands we are still familiar with today, like Quaker Oats and Aunt Jemima represent these surrogate relationships- “people” you could form a relationship with, albeit a fake one.

More recently, branding has come to reflect concepts larger than those of quality. Instead of the product sending a message about the product itself, the product produces an identity for the user, a consumer becomes a “type” – a “Nike type” – athletic, strong willed, a “Body Shop type” environmentally conscious, altruistic. This is a clear example of one form of John Storey’s definition of ideology, that of false consciousness. Instead of just purchasing a pair of running shoes, a person specifically seeking out Nikes may have a goal to become the type of person he/she sees in commercials. Being good at sports, in this way, is a form of representing the American dream.

Klein discusses public vs. private space by comparing Barnes and Nobles to public libraries. She feels the claims about Barnes and Noble being just like a library is completely false, and free speech issues occur when the lines blur between libraries and bookstores and, for another example, between old-fashioned town squares and large shopping malls that are designed to look like town squares. Despite its appearance, passing out leaflets inside a mall is prohibited, while in a town square (if you could find one) it would ideally be okay to do so. This can be seen as both an example of ideological forms because of the friction caused by the public and private worlds and Althusser’s conception of material practice, because of the aspect of community fostered through the market system.

One contradiction I encountered in the documentary is Klein bemoaning losing any spaces where individuals can relate as citizens and not consumers. Even outside of a market situation, say, enjoying time at a friend’s house having some beers is not completely devoid of consumption- and that’s okay. Someone could argue that this fact “conceals the reality of domination”, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that it should be something to move away from. So long as no one is being coerced, consumption is a normal part of being a social being.