activism books politics

Book review: No is not enough, by Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein usually takes several years to research and write a book. No is not Enough is different, written in speedy response to the election of Donald Trump. It’s brimming with anger and disgust at Trump and his politics, but is occasionally hopeful too. Most of all, it’s a call to arms to those stunned by Trump’s election victory and asking themselves ‘what now?’

Klein draws on all her previous books to inform her commentary. First, she takes the topic of No Logo and explores the idea of Trump as a brand. She explains how his administration is a case study in what she described in The Shock Doctrine, using people’s disorientation to push through a radical and self-serving agenda. Then we get a unifying grassroots response of the kind featured in This Changes Everything.

As it deals with the early months of the Republican administration, the book spends quite a lot of time speculating about what it might do, rather than responding to its actual actions. Trump hadn’t pulled out of the Paris Agreement at the time of writing, for example. It sets things at a very precise moment in time, and it dates the book for readers like me who come to it a little late.

Nevertheless, there are some useful insights into the Trump phenomenon, which Klein insists should not be a surprise. Quite the opposite. He is the logical conclusion of “a great many dangerous stories that our culture has been telling for a very long time. That greed is good. That the market rules. That money is what matters in life. That white men are better than the rest. That the natural world is there for us to pillage…”

Klein’s expertise in branding brings an unusual perspective, though at times I thought it overplayed Trump’s victory as a corporate takeover, downplaying the role of the electorate that put him in office. We get to them too, the hollowed out middle class and betrayed white males, in later chapters.

As a response, Klein argues that we need to do more than run progressive candidates within a broken system. Name-checking minority communities isn’t enough if the system itself is unequal. Instead, American democracy needs a new set of values. That’s a cultural change that won’t come from either party, but from a mass citizen movement.

As an example, Klein points to the ‘people’s platform’ developed in Canada. This is the rather intriguing idea of developing a manifesto and releasing it in the middle of an election, but without connecting it to a political party. Called the , it set out a vision for the country formed by community discussion, not the choices of politicians. Then it invited politicians to back it. It’s a great idea, and one I hadn’t heard about – Canadian politics doesn’t feature highly in the British press, it’s fair to say.

Speaking of which, it only gets a passing mention here, but much of the book’s message applies directly to Brexit too. It’s a classic example of the shock doctrine, as some commentators have . There’s almost no recognition of this among the general public or in what politicians say out loud, and the book is worth reading as a comparison with what is about to happen in Britain.

No is not Enough would have been better read when it came out in 2017, but it does make a compelling case for replying to extreme politics not just with resistance, but imaginative and constructive visions for the alternative.

  • No is not Enough is , which supports local bookshops. Or there’s or .

2 comments

  1. We had better hope the Democrats in the States get a better idea than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal which will do little than gift Trump a second term if it becomes their candidate’s policy.

    1. That’s possibly true, though there were polls suggesting Bernie Sanders would have comfortably won against Trump, so there may be more appetite out there for that kind of change.

      What Klein is proposing is different though, as it’s change driven from outside of the political parties. That makes it more radical in the true sense of the word, from the roots. Political parties, especially in America, are inherently divisive and change that driven from outside them has the potential to be unifying.

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