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« Saints Go Marching In? When? | Main | The College Process: Academic Readiness »


The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein

By an everyday book reader
September 1, 2007

In her groundbreaking reporting over the past few years, Naomi Klein introduced the term disaster capitalism. Whether covering Baghdad after the U.S. occupation, Sri Lanka in the wake of the tsunami, or New Orleans post-Katrina, she witnessed something remarkably similar. People still reeling from catastrophe were being hit again, this time with economic shock treatment, losing their land and homes to rapid-fire corporate makeovers.

At the core of disaster capitalism is the use of cataclysmic events to advance radical privatization combined with the privatization of the disaster response itself. Klein argues that by capitalizing on crises, created by nature or war, the disaster capitalism complex now exists as a booming new economy, and is the violent culmination of a radical economic project that has been incubating for fifty years.

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
by Naomi KleinBook Picture

Hardcover: 576 pages
ISBN: 9780805079838, 0805079831
Metropolitan Books
September 2007

The bestselling author of No Logo shows how the global free market has exploited crises and shock for three decades, from Chile to Iraq.

The Shock Doctrine retells the story of the most dominant ideology of our time, Milton Friedman s free market economic revolution. In contrast to the popular myth of this movement's peaceful global victory, Klein shows how it has exploited moments of shock and extreme violence in order to implement its economic policies in so many parts of the world from Latin America and Eastern Europe to South Africa, Russia, and Iraq.

The author follows John Perkins and others in pointing an alarmed finger at a global "corporatocracy" that combines the worst features of big business and small government. The difference is that Klein's book incorporates an amount of due diligence, logical structure and statistical evidence that others lack. As a result, she is persuasive when she links past and present events, including the war in Iraq and trashing of its economy, to the systematic march of laissez-faire capitalism and the downsizing of the public sector as both a world view and a political methodology. Klein fully establishes the influence of U.S. economist Milton Friedman, who died in November 2006, as champion of the free-market transformations that occurred initially in South America, where Friedmanite minions trained at the University of Chicago in the 1960s worked their wiles on behalf of some of the 20th century's most repressive regimes. On to China's Tiananmen Square, then to the collapsed Soviet Union, where oligarchs soared and the underclass was left to starve in the 1990s. More recent developments include forcing private development on the tsunami-ravaged beach fronts of South Asia and junking the public-school system in favor of private charter schools in post-Katrina New Orleans. Just as provocative is Klein's analysis of the Bush administration's rampant outsourcing of U.S. government responsibilities, including the entire "homeland security industry," to no-bid corporate contractors and their expense-laden chains of subcontractors. Her account of that methodology's consequences in Iraq, as mass unemployment coincided with the disbanding of a standing army whose soldiers took their guns home, leaves little doubt as to why there is an enduring insurgency. Required reading for anyone trying to pierce the complexities of globalization. - Kirkus Reviews

The neo-liberal economic policies--privatization, free trade, slashed social spending--that the Chicago School and the economist Milton Friedman have foisted on the world are catastrophic in two senses, argues this vigorous polemic. Because their results are disastrous--depressions, mass poverty, private corporations looting public wealth, by the author's accounting--their means must be cataclysmic, dependent on political upheavals and natural disasters as coercive pretexts for free-market reforms the public would normally reject. Journalist Klein (No Logo) chronicles decades of such disasters, including the Chicago School makeovers launched by South American coups; the corrupt sale of Russia's state economy to oligarchs following the collapse of the Soviet Union; the privatization of New Orleans's public schools after Katrina; and the seizure of wrecked fishing villages by resort developers after the Asian tsunami. Klein's economic and political analyses are not always meticulous.... Still, much of her critique hits home, as she demonstrates how free-market ideologues welcome, and provoke, the collapse of other people's economies. The result is a powerful populist indictment of economic orthodoxy. - Publishers Weekly

Naomi Klein is the award-winning author of the acclaimed international bestseller No Logo and of the essay collection Fences and Windows. An internationally syndicated columnist, she co-created the documentary film The Take with Avi Lewis.

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Comments (1)

Bob Hooper Author Profile Page:

Klein's book should be a must-read for all U.S. citizens who have been led to believe that democracy is synonymous with free-market capitalism. Sadly, I suspect it won't be, nor will it get much play in the so-called liberal (but in reality corporate consumerist) media.

It's not an easy read, not because Klein doesn't have a clear style, but because it's relatively long and full of detail. But the primary reason it won't get wide-spread attention is that in the U.S. public are fewer and fewer citizens willing to make the effort.

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