We’re asking the SOAS community for their top reading recommendations. From non-fiction to novel, essay to biography, all the books which have been chosen reflect the SOAS values, provide food for thought, and – we think – deserve a place on your ‘to read’ list.
We asked Maxine Betteridge-Moes for her top book recommendation. Maxine is currently finishing up her MA in Media in Development, having previously worked as a journalist in Asia and Africa. She’s also one of the SOAS Digital Ambassadors, regularly contributing to the SOAS Blog with impactful pieces on a wide range of topics.
Hi Maxine! Which book are you recommending?
No Logo by Naomi Klein
Can you sum up the book in three sentences?
No Logo is an investigation that traces the history of corporate branding and marketing that gave rise to the most powerful brands in the world, including Nike, Adidas, Starbucks and Microsoft. It’s also an analysis of consumer culture and anti-corporate activism, complete with statistical evidence and compelling personal stories from around the world.
In today’s increasingly globalised and privatised world, No Logo provides a critical look into how corporations are shamelessly violating workers’ rights, local laws, environmental regulations and social responsibilities in their endless pursuit of profits.
Why did you choose this book?
I love anything by Naomi Klein, but this book in particular just feels timeless. I was late to the game in reading it (and full disclosure, I’ve still got about a third to go) but it’s stunning how something that was written in 1999 feels more relevant now than ever. This book is an inspiring and infuriating investigation into the iron-grip of capitalist power and corporate branding, and why we as a society are struggling so much to break free.
Who should read this book?
The Guardian called it “The Das Kapital of the growing anti-corporate movement” which means every SOASian should read it if they haven’t already. But it’s also an important read for anyone that has ever purchased or thought about purchasing a branded product – whether it be a pair of shoes, a hoodie, a hamburger or a cup of coffee.
This book really opened my eyes to the magnitude of power and influence of corporate branding in even the most non-conformist and resistant groups. It’s completely tainted my perception of the ads I see, the brands I buy and the movements I follow, but in the best possible way.
What is your biggest takeaway from the book, or your favourite quote?
In a sub-section called “Hip Hop Blows up the Brands”, Klein studies inner-city branding of some of America’s poorest neighbourhoods in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. I was reminded of this section the other day when I was cycling past a basketball court in a council estate in South London. Above both nets was a massive Adidas logo, visible from almost a block away.
Klein writes that sports brands like Adidas and Nike have adopted a practice called “bro-ing” where they borrow “the style, attitude and imagery of black youth” to generate hype around a product and sell their goods back into their target communities. She writes:
“Nike has even succeeded in branding the basketball courts where it goes bro-ing through its philanthropic wing, P.L.A.Y (Participating in the Lives of Youth). P.L.A.Y sponsors inner-city sports programs in exchange for high swoosh visibility, including giant swooshes at the centre or resurfaced urban basketball courts. In tonier parts of the city, that kind of thing would be called an ad and the space would come at a price, but on this side of the tracks, Nike pays nothing, and files the cost under charity.”
No Logo by Naomi Klein is available in the SOAS Library.