The politics of rebranding

Kenan Malik in Pandaemonium:

It’s easy to mock the Corporation Formerly Known As Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that Facebook would henceforth be Meta, and his attempt to swerve the intensifying assault on his company’s sordid activities with a nifty bit of rebranding, is worthy of all the ridicule that’s been heaped on it.

And yet, when the laughter has faded, we might also reflect on the fact that the Zuckerberg manoeuvre is a feature not of a particular company but of our age. Rebranding has become the norm, not just in business but in politics and social activism too. And, as with Facebook (or Meta), we live in a world in which form is often seen as more important than content and the symbolic is elevated over the material.

In 1995, the political philosopher Nancy Fraser warned that too often “cultural recognition displaces socio-economic redistribution as the remedy for injustice and the goal of political struggle”. Quarter of a century on and struggles for equality and social justice have become even more centred around the cultural and the symbolic, whether tussles over identities or controversies over statues, rather than on wages, housing or material deprivation.

More here.