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The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Written by Naomi Klein

Narrated by Jennifer Wiltsie


The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Written by Naomi Klein

Narrated by Jennifer Wiltsie

ratings:
4.5/5 (148 ratings)
Length:
9 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 18, 2007
ISBN:
9781427200891
Format:
Audiobook

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Editor's Note

Provocative & sobering…

One of the most provocative, sobering, and controversial looks at who profits and how in the wake of disasters both natural and man-made. Klein tackles the destructiveness of capitalism with biting clarity.

Description

In her ground-breaking reporting 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.

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.

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.

A Macmillan Audio production.

Publisher:
Released:
Sep 18, 2007
ISBN:
9781427200891
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, columnist, and author of the New York Times and international bestsellers The Shock Doctrine, No Logo, This Changes Everything, and No Is Not Enough. A Senior Correspondent for The Intercept, reporter for Rolling Stone, and contributor for both The Nation and The Guardian, Klein is the inaugural Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University. She is cofounder of the climate justice organization The Leap.


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4.6
148 ratings / 69 Reviews
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  • (5/5)
    A public policy book belonging to the horror genre, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine is an impassioned chronicle of greedy, violent misbehavior. Her purpose is to publicize and dissect the “Chicago School experiment,” by which she means the economic “shock” therapy promulgated and supported by the school of economic thought that she associates most with 1976 Nobel laureate Milton Friedman. She sums up her thesis by writing that “the entire thirty-year history of the Chicago School experiment has been one of mass corruption and corporatist collusion between security states and large corporations.” No pulling punches there. I read Friedman’s Free to Choose long ago. It was an easy introduction to his notions and influenced my thinking. That title, Free to Choose, represents a colossal irony if we accept Klein’s accusations of the way freedom and citizen welfare are sacrificed to achieve national economic and political transformation through the principles and prescriptions she attributes to the Chicago School. But, should we accept her accusations?Four prominent demands of the Chicago School are as follows: (1) Privatization of public enterprises and resources;(2) Economic deregulation;(3) Tax cuts;(4) Deep cuts in government spending.While people should debate the merits of these demands, I do not see anything inherently immoral about them if the efforts to implement them are done peaceably with consent.However, as implemented in nations such as Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, South Africa, China, Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere, Klein’s version of the Chicago School’s Friedmanomics takes on the garb of some kind of ghoulish Freakishnomics. Her intent is to show that in these countries it meant all or some of the following:(1) Overthrow of the ruling government, often by violence, even when that government was legally elected by voters in accord with their country’s constitution;(2) Capture and torture of opponents or presumed opponents;(3) Terrorist acts against the citizenry, including murder;(4) Enrichment of the richest classes of the nation, with some high bureaucrats also becoming plutocrats themselves;(5) Foreign takeover of profitable businesses and gaining of the right to exploit the nation’s natural resources;(6) Impoverishment of workers;(7) Discontinuation or diminishment of many social services;(8) “Debt bomb” detonation to conquer the willfulness of governments resisting Chicago School policies.All these actions, among other lapses of polite behavior, to be carried out in the interest of multinational corporations. How about that for an eight-fold path? Feeling the Zen? This isn’t a program citizens of conscience normally ask their leaders to pursue, so there’s one other crucial element: Sell it as an absolute necessity to the preserving of freedom, peace, prosperity, and security. But also, if doable, skimp on the selling and establish the package by coercive force brought with such speed and rude brutality that it will seem a reckoning brought forth by the gods. SHOCK, baby!Why, one might as well revert to Aristotle’s contention in the Politics that “hunting ought to be practiced—not only against animals, but also against human beings who are intended by nature to be ruled by others and refuse to obey that intention—because war of this order is naturally just.” Klein might say that’s exactly what has happened.The question becomes how fair and correct her account is. For example, her reports of better economic outcomes in some countries with “managed” economies come across as supported by cherry-picked data, a common fault of those engaged in political persuasion. Suppose she has done this? Is it enough to justify rejecting her outrage and accepting the shocking eight-fold path she describes? Do her misjudgments about leaders such as Hugo Chavez wholly invalidate the critique? Prior political inclinations will do much to color how one responds to this book. It’s not perfect. Ambitious books, passionately argued, aren’t. To some readers it will feel like a defamation, which reaches its height in Klein’s account of the war in Iraq. It attempts to revolutionize some of our most confidently (complacently?) held ideas about U.S. and corporate behavior throughout the world. If you are ill-disposed to accepting Klein’s biases or theses, focusing on the acts she describes and asking, “IS THIS WHAT I’D WANT ANOTHER NATION TO DO TO MY OWN COUNTRY?” can still make The Shock Doctrine an informative, dynamic, even necessary reading experience.
  • (5/5)
    This is an incredibly important book that connects a number of seemingly disparate events from the late 20th and early 21st centuries via an economic ideology underpinning them. I learned a hell of a lot about a bunch of historical events, in addition to the unifying narrative that Klein was drawing. The prose is refreshingly readable for a nonfiction book. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone else looking to understand what happened geopolitically in the last few decades and why right-wing economic policies appear to have gotten so popular worldwide.
  • (5/5)
    In the light of Christchurch's recent devastating earthquakes, and ensuing changes to our school and education policies, I was excited to read in the first chapter about "Disaster Capitalism" being a well established method of pushing through unpopular economic reform. The economic reform is generally comprised of three things: privatisation, government spending cuts and deregulation (free-trade). And the disaster, although in our case was a natural one, can be in the form of war, civil unrest, the bottoming out of an economy- all of which can be manufactured, btw.This book looks in depth at the situations we have all heard of in various countries over the last 40 years. Chile in the 1970s when popular socialist leader Allende was overthrown by US backed General Pinochet is heralded as the first "experiment" in using shock tactics to bring in free-trade. It was also one of the most harsh on the general population. People were "shocked" into submission by violence, torture, imprisonment, and by being "disappeared" if they displayed so much as a skerrick of left-wing ideals. With the public silenced, the economy was transformed into what would eventually leave a few multi-nationals very very rich, and Chileans without government/military connections, very very poor.It is very difficult not to cast America as the bad guy here. The IMF and the World Bank both had policies to make loans dependent on the implementation of the three aspects discussed above- known collectively as the Washington Consensus. They stepped in when countries were in crisis, and then had them by the balls for the foreseeable future. The IMF and World Bank were (and are?) populated by proponents of the Chicago School of Economics thinking. Right-wing free-trade-at-any-cost economists. These guys hold tight to the idea that without any government controls, economies not only flourish, but have unlimited growth (personally I have huge problems with this theory, not the least of which is the fact the unlimited growth is impossible based on the fact that there is a limit to natural resources).The book goes on to discuss Argentina, Russia's transformation from communist state to extreme capitalist zone, Britain under Thatcher, Poland, China's opening up, South Africa, Sri Lanka post tsunami, Iraq war and Israel in great detail and providing a side of the story that you would never have read about in the papers. The lengths that were gone to to implement economic reform are incredible. The level of crony-ism and back room deals played out between politicians and US policy advisors, the IMF and business leaders is astounding.This book reads like a thriller, one in which you cannot wait for the good guys to come in and rescue the masses. The idealist in me thinks the good guys are coming, but the realist in me knows that where there is multi-millions to be made, the greedy will not stop at any cost to feather their own nests.
  • (5/5)
    Absolutely fascinating. You must read this book.
  • (5/5)
    life changing
    this book os a wakeup call to evrryone
  • (4/5)
    Disturbing, frustrating, enlightening, hope, no hope, and on and on. Naomi opens your eyes to so much greed and evil then gives you a sliver of hope at the end. The book left me wanting more, an update with the latest ongoings around the globe, but now with eyes wide open one can guess what is really going on and do I really need it in writing to see it. Probably not. Read this shortly after reading Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. Piketty provides the statistics that backs Klein's story, though I'm sure that wasn't Piketty's intention.
  • (3/5)
    Although some of her takes on recent geo-political movements seem forced, if even only 20% of her assertions are true, it is appalling how the West has (dis)served the two-thirds world. Challenging.
  • (4/5)
    Naomi Klein won a special place in my mind with her "No Logo" book. Ever since I read it, I haven't worn a single item of clothing with an identifiable brand. I know that's kind of like saying all I got from "Atlas Shrugged" was the phrase 'Who is John Galt?', but bear with me.

    The author dives into the recent past and explores the common thread of how disaster always seems to bring about some lasting change that benefits everyone except those affected by the disaster itself, and these changes end up being more painful than the disaster itself. Klein calls it "disaster capitalism", names Milton Friedman and electroshock therapy as the parents and Augusto Pinochet as the midwife. She then follows the beast's trail through Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Poland, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico and Iraq, finally coming home to roost in inundated New Orleans.

    Whether the beast itself is a man-made engine of purposeful destruction or a nameless faceless sum of ineffable market forces and serendipity is open to debate. Klein argues the former position, and does it quite well, naming names and putting dates and places on the worst excesses of vulture capitalism of the late 20th century. Still, the argument looks threadbare at times, the connections tenuous and the conclusions facile. There is certainly some writing on the wall, but it will probably remain to others to decide if "The Shock Doctrine" contains the whole text or only the most menacing letters.
  • (1/5)
    Because I'm about 3 pages away from returning it to the library, I've all but stopped reading this (and a buddy has told me that there are only specific passages that are worth reading, so I'll go find them, instead). It is so full of ad hominem, straw man, "just-because-it-was-done-by-the-GOP,-free-marketists,-or-people-who-liked-Milton-Friedman,-so-it-MUST-be-bad" arguments that I am wondering what it I am supposed to get out of what feels a lot like a left-wing rant? Klien hasn't actually argued anything that has any basis in reality. It's kind of feels like I'm listening to Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter, but instead it's a liberal who hates free markets and Republicans. It's just one liberal talking point after another, sans documenation, lots of anecdotes followed by the summary dismissal of "all because of Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economics" or "all because of shock free markets." But I'm still waiting to hear that she's even talking about the results of free markets. Her entire argument seems to be "free markets equal evil" but she neglects any type of logical connection between the two.

    Example: she jumps all over charter schools, but never really says whats wrong with them or that they aren't working. The only problem she sites is that the school unions are gone and that teachers don't like them. She implies that they are keeping the poor out of schools, but does not say it, because under a voucher system, students are funded to exactly the same level as under a non-charter system; they just get to choose what school they attend. IN otherwords, the public is still paying for a free education, but now students and their parents get to choose what school....but what's wrong with that? She doesn't say. Just says "it's bad for unions and teachers who worked in public schools before hate it" (though she doesn't actually site any teachers).

    Example: she jumps all over Chile because "Pinochet was there" but never really makes a connection between Pinochet and the free market, other than to say "because they both happened at the same time, it must have been the free market that lead to all those people being tortured." What she doesn't mention is that Chile is the 8th most free economy in the world today and is ranked 3rd in the Americas (behind Canada and the US) and has experience 5% growth over the years from 2004-2009...but she doesn't ever talk about that or that today, after getting rid of Pinochet, Chile is one of the strongest, free-est, and fastest growing countries in South America, to say nothing of the world. Oh, she also forgets to mention that Pinochet is not in power any more but was ousted a long time ago.

    Example: she attacks free market implimentation in Iraq, but fails to mention that most countries don't have ANY economy after a war, and that implimentation of an economy in Germany and Japan after WWII and in Korea after the Korea War didn't do too bad for them...in fact, it made them three of the strongest economies in the world. Implimentation of a non-free market economy in the countries of Poland, Romania, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Estonia, and Belarus didn't exactly work out for them...just ask the millions of people who had to live through it, then go ask the millions in West Germany, France, Italy and Japan that did benefit from the free market after WWII (as well as Korea and Singapore)

    Example: she lays blame for the Asian crisis at the doorstep of the free market, but what she doesn't say is that these countries were already free markets before, and that after they have rebounded faster than those that were affected by the crisis but were not free economies.

    Example: she attacks the free market for Russia's woes, but the free market was never implemented there. The Kremlin has taken over control of the media and oil companies, as well as several other large conglomerates. A list of the fifty richest people in Russia is also a list of the KGB class of 1999 and the "friends of Putin."

    Example: Tienanmen Square a precursor to the free market? This is a clear case of the tail wagging the dog. It is widely credited as being the crisis that took down the then current party leadership in favor of leadership willing to open up China to allow more economic freedom, not the other way around, as she proposes (that it was the suppression of all those masses who wanted democracy, not economic freedom, silly...why would they want that?).

    So, I am eager to know what redemptive qualities are in the book. It reads like liberal drivel that one only believes if it provides supporting evidence for what one already believes.

    Look for it on the discount rack of second hand book stores near you soon...
  • (5/5)
    Getting long in the non-fiction tooth yet no less insightful as an explanation for our globalization, social, and economic strife. Written before 2008 crash, her POV assessment is uncanny even if she admittedly is left of center . YouTube and TEDTalk . Her first book No Logo was groundbreaking
  • (3/5)
    Klein combines as many as half a dozen good books in this 'book' that's ultimately dragged down by two extremely awful books.

    Good: long essays/short books on the history of 'the Chicago School' of economics, particularly as it relates to the World Bank/IMF/WTO; on outsourcing by, and hollowing out of, government between Clinton and the present; on the revolutions of the 'nineties in Poland, South Africa and Russia. And nice short essays on New Orleans and Israel.

    Bad: mind bendingly stupid analogy between the use of electro-shock by psychiatrists on the one hand, and the use of 'shock therapy' by economists and central bankers on the other; tiring anti-Bush rhetoric; bizarre insistence that Milton Friedman = Chicago School Economics = Neo-liberalism = Neo-Conservatism = corporate welfare; completely unnecessary, Procrustean bed made up of these three bad things.

    Klein writes very well, her journalism is first rate, and much of the narrative history is excellently done. Quite why she needs to find a Villain to pin it all on (i.e., Milton Friedman) is beyond me: her book should have been about how free-market capitalism, as ever, makes democracy impossible, with a number of *very different* examples to show as much. Instead it often reads as if Milton Friedman pulled the strings in every major event of the late twentieth century, which, loathe his theories as I do, he did not do.

    NB: I read this with a friend, who points out that sometimes it's okay to be unsubtle, particularly when the injustice you're describing is so monstrous. I would prefer that not be the case, but suspect that it is, and there's no doubt that you'll get more from this book of Klein's than you will from dozens of other books. So take my complaints as those of a hopeless ivory tower dwelling mandarin, and read this book for the many facts it contains.
  • (1/5)
    Naomi Klein has achieved something incredible with this book; she's written something worse than No Logo.

    Full of glaring errors and blatant distortions (her take on Freidman's Tyranny of the Status Quo suggests she hasn't even read the blurb) the book shows no understanding at all of the economics it tries to talk about. It's like a prolonged lecture in football tactics from someone who does't understand the offside rule.

    The book suggests that 'Chicago School' economics 1) Is something homogeneous and 2) Replaced something which was working perfectly well. Neither is true.

    In the first place Freidman and Hayek disagreed strongly over both methodology and monetary theory. Klein doesn't understand monetary theory so its no shock she gets this so wrong but then why did she write about it?

    Secondly, at no point anywhere does Klein suggest there might have been a problem with the Keynesian paradigm the 'Chicago' paradigm replaced in economics and public policy. In fact, by the late 1970s, Keynesian economics was obviously failing very badly. People turned to the ideas of Freidman and co because the alternative wasn't working.

    And turn they did. Klein shows no understanding of British politics in the period suggesting that Margaret Thatcher was unpopular (she won three elections) and that the miners had widespread support. They never, in fact, at any stage had such support.

    In short, a good book if you have a prejudice towards liberal economics but look elsewhere for factual and informed analysis of the liberal revival of the last thirty years.
  • (4/5)
    If you want to change the path we're on, you need to understand where we are going to change direction. This is a well written look at the art of disaster capitalism and the Friedmanites who carry it on to this day.
  • (5/5)
    I don't normally read non-fiction and this has been sitting on my book shelf for a while now but, once I started, I couldn't put it down.The book covers the South American economies of the 70's, Thatchers UK in the 80's, the Asian financial crisis of 1997 through to the occupation of Iraq. It covers how the CIA tested out ideas of shock therapy on people to re-build them and how this was used on economies in need of support or in some cases of regime change (though the latter was always in the eyes of America).The idea was to bring great "improvements" there had to be a major event that caused so much shock to allow governments to be able to do whatever they wanted (i.e. 9/11). The books shows cases such as this and even though the poorest suffered and the large companies gained this never stopped the IMF putting this forward each time as the solution to get money.While reading this book the Euro crisis rumbles on....Greece is protesting about cuts and the IMF loan money but want a more open society where privatisation occurs. And as you read the book you can link each happening in Greece to what you are reading. Scarey but you see how the wheels of the world are working. Definately worth the read.
  • (4/5)
    The Shock Doctrine is an in-depth look at 'shock' and the idea that when people are most vulnerable, that is the best time for people/businesses/corporations/politicians to make drastic changes that will benefit the few rather than the masses.

    So, how do you take advantage of people when they are the most down?
    1. You need some kind of crisis--natural disaster (tsunami, hurricane, earthquake...anything!), political revolution, economic crisis...
    2. You need to have a plan of action BEFORE the disaster so that when it hits, you jump in with your plans when everyone else is still in shock. (HINT: This is a great opportunity to use the disaster for something you may have been trying ot do for a long time. Example: Are you upset that public schools aren't privatized, then wait for a hurricane, and rather than rebuild public schools, create charter schools....[New Orleans])
    3. Once the changes are made, have zero tolerance for protests, democractic voting on the issues or even questioning your plan. To achieve this, you can illegally arrest, detain, and torture people, kill them or even just make them disappear. For examples, see: Chile, Argentina, Guantanomo Bay, Russia. This step often involves the psychological shock as well--sensory deprivation, hallucinagens, disruption of food/sleep patterns (for more details on how to do this, check the U.S. CIA-funded research of Ewen Cameron, Canadian psychiatrist).
    4. When the economy tanks, thousands are out of jobs and without food, DON'T GIVE UP! You are almost your way to completely devastating a country/region/group. The key: MORE privitization! Let multinational companies buy up and take over whatever remaining public-sector jobs you have (probably laying off those workers in the process) and charging you more to do the same work (IF they even do it).
    5. Remember when protests start you must terrorize and shock the people into not protesting. Make them more afraid of what you will do to them than of what they want the most: autonomy, freedom, food and shelter.
    6. After a few decades, if the economy hasn't gotten better, change government types/parties, and blame whoever comes in, NOT your policies. The key here is to be strong and repetitive in your statements: YOU didn't cause massive hunger and poverty--the socialists did.
    7. At this point, you should have made your billions, go ahead and move on to the next crisis and repeat. No need to change up your strategy--it works all over the world repeatedly.

    Sound cynical? Perhaps unreal? Shocking? I agree. Klein uses a strong voice to show her disapproval of US funded economic strategies all over the world that mostly ended in the simple manner of the rich getting richer and more becoming poor. For all of the Shock and Awe that Klein writes of committed by the government, her book is also shocking. As a reader, I can't help but hurt for the people who first suffer a natural disaster, but then are hit again with policies aimed to cheat them out of their jobs, homes, and well being.

    Fascinating read...I just wish I could say it were fiction.
  • (5/5)
    Shockingly good and relevant! 5 bags of popcorn and a roll of paper towels??????
  • (5/5)
    Outstanding book that should be required high school reading! If unabashed capitalism makes your skin crawl as it does mine, this book will be difficult to get through, but absolutely necessary to be a well informed, dissenting citizen.

    The quality of the recording, however, was problematic at times. It would cut out randomly causing me to miss portions of the text. Perhaps some kind of update needs to be done to fix this?
  • (5/5)
    This book should be required reading in America. So many harmful myths still perpetuated today would meet their immediate demise.
  • (5/5)
    The best book I've red so far! A must for everybody interested in how capitalists shape our world today. After reading it you will change your perspective on how the world economy functions.
  • (4/5)
    We live in scary times, as capitalists find new ways to profit from labor and land.
  • (5/5)
    Must read for everyone, especially high school students. The future is in their hands...May 2020
  • (5/5)
    This is an essential explanation of how disaster capitalism works. The main case studies are Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war. This book predated the 2008 crisis by about a year, but the methods described were implemented then, just like Hurricane Katrina.

    Understanding disaster capitalism is essential to understanding why the Covid-19 bailouts are going to immediately increase inequality.

    Your government is screwing you.
  • (5/5)
    A foundation text for the 21st century revolution. One of my new faves.
  • (4/5)
    You don't need to read of Margaret Atwood's post-apocalyptic dystopias to get a taste of one possible future: instead just look back ten or fifteen years, to New Orleans post-Katrina, or Iraq post 9/11.The premise of this book is simultaneously horrifying, fascinating, and compelling. It's a sister work to “Hypernormalization,” Adam Curtis' 2016 documentary. Both tell the story of the ways that free-market fundamentalism actually doesn’t work, need to be reinforced with terrorist measures, and which governments continue to play make-believe with, putting up the facade of functionality.That said, it’s an oversimplification to say that disasters are only exploited by free-market ideologues. In ecology, people use model of forest-succession called the shifting mosaic. A wind storm will take out old-growth forest in one section, opening up the opportunity room for a different mix of species. During disruption is the only time to easily introduce new models, whatever their politics. The Transition Towns core premise is that industrial society is failing us, and it’s up to us to build local, resilient alternatives. It’s lack of mainstream adoption probably has to do with the fact that our economy hasn’t fallen apart badly enough yet for these new seedlings to fully sprout up through the cracks.
  • (4/5)
    This book exposes the ideology of neoliberalism, the idea that government should be limited to the bare bones and that corporations should be completely unregulated, a school of thought promoted by Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago.  The book begins with the story of CIA mind-washing experiments which attempted to erase the very self-identity of the subjects.  The shock doctrine applies these same actions (mostly metaphorically, but sometimes literally with interrogation and torture techniques) to entire communities and economies.  This begins with the overthrow of democratically-elected government in Chile and the installation of the dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was advised by Friedman's own trained "Chicago Boys."  The same policies pop up again in response to disasters - war, economic collapse, and natural disasters - where neoliberal policies are ready to go at the time when democratic processes are least likely to be followed. Klein examines how both Iraq and New Orleans were deliberately cleared of their past and memory to be remade in a neoliberal model, with much exploitation and corporate profits in the process.  This is a chilling and illuminating book.Favorite Passages:Communism may have collapsed without the firing of a single shot, but Chicago-style capitalism, it turned out, required a great deal of gunfire to defend itself.Recommended books:
  • (4/5)
    My problem with The Shock Doctrine is a simple one – I agree with Naomi Klein. I agree, as any civilised person would, with her views on the use of torture. I share her distaste for the theories of Milton Friedman. And I’m right with her on the economic consequences apparently flowing from the mass adoption of the Chicago School’s theories as policy. But I’m deeply uncomfortable with books like this that reinforce my viewpoint. They tend to bypass your critical facilities and hit you straight in the ‘godammit I’m right!’ pleasure centres of the brain. There’ll be plenty of cheerleaders for Klein’s follow-up to No Logo, likely the same readers who saw her first book as a manifesto for that very reason. And there’ll be a smaller subsection of readers who support Chicago School theory who have precisely the opposite problem and are liable to have thrown the book across the room or towards the bin at some point in the second chapter.As a righteous kicking of the theories that have dominated the Western world for the past thirty years or so it’s glorious and overdue. Klein’s at her strongest when she points out how these ideas had no traction before they were imposed undemocratically, and always with painful consequences for the countries affected. She traces how the ideas spread from their first adoption by Pinochet in Chile, through to the IMF imposing them on nations as a consequence of asking for aid. Although it’s clearly flavoured against Friedman’s ‘shock doctrine’ it’s a fascinating history of how an idea can spread with or without popular demand, simply by having the right idea available to the right people at the right time. I’d be nodding along happily but for two points. The first, the most obvious, is the heavy handed torture metaphor. Klein draws a parallel between physical and economic torture, linking them explicitly by the actions of regimes using the Chicago School ideas. It’s an arresting opening and a blatant attempt to get the reader onside because how many civilised people could disagree about torture’s a terrible, unconscionable thing? Not me. But where you stand on Chicago School economics is an ideological thing, and this comes across as going straight for the reptile brain, to bypass thought. Klein’s on firmer ground when detailing the consequences of how those ideas affected economies and then the further reaching consequences (particularly with the outsourcing mania under the Bush regime). The other point is a minor factual one. Klein credits Guardian columnist Seamus Milne for background work on the Thatcherite reforms in Britain. It uses the Falklands War to fit into her conflict driven thesis. Unfortunately Milne must have had his ideological blinkers on when helping out with the detail, because the Falklands narrative, though predominant, is total bollocks. It’s a narrative supplied by a triumphant press of the 1980s which was overly sympathetic to Thatcher. It played a small role in helping her get re-elected, but the bald electoral facts tell another story. Thatcher lost support in the 1980 election, but her landslide victory was down to the split in the left wing vote caused by the formation of the SDP. The combined left wing vote was greater than the unsplit right wing vote. That’s what granted Thatcher’s government the political space to enact their ideas – being in the right place at the right time. With some little work it could be reconstructed to fit the narrative, one closer to Reagan’s adoption of the ideas in the US, but that Klein accepts received wisdom leads the reader to doubt where else she may have fudged details to fit the grand sweep.A fascinating read then, but a flawed one. Caveat lector!
  • (5/5)
    Naomi Klein isn’t a stylist. Her sentence at the opening of Chapter 12 (“The Capitalist ID”) is about as close as she gets to stylistic writing: “On the day I went to visit Jeffrey Sachs in October 2006, New York City was under a damp blanket of gray drizzle punctuated, every five paces or so, by a vibrant burst of red.”

    No, she’s not an English-language stylist. She’s a Canadian journalist. And a damned good one, at that! And one who’d put a lot of journalists — assuming they’d not simply been told to look the other way on the possible cause of a virtually worldwide financial crisis — to shame in papers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, not to mention in magazines as august as The Atlantic. (Let’s not even mention the networks, shall we? They’re better at postulating on popular trends and telling doggie stories.)

    Could it be that the party (for many, though certainly not for all of us) here in these United States was just too long and too good from the end of WW II until now? Even Eisenhower — a conservative if there ever was one — publicly recognized the arrival of the military-industrial complex. Is this new brand of disaster capitalism really anything more than the “logical” evolution of that complex?

    I have a confession to make: I of course knew the name ‘Milton Friedman’ and something about his reputation; I also knew the reputation of the University of Chicago (albeit more for its History Department than for its Economics Department); I, myself, am a graduate of the Philosophy Department of Columbia University. All of this notwithstanding, I was absolutely ignorant of any of this economic shock treatment — from Chile and Argentina, to Poland and Russia, then on to Asia, to Iraq (where our behavior has been beyond despicable) and the Middle East, and back home again to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

    I owe Ms. Klein a humble vote of gratitude. And it was only thanks to a fellow Greek writer, whose own country is now on the verge of financial collapse, that I even found out about Ms. Klein’s book.

    Don’t make a comparable fool out of yourself through similar (and similarly unpardonable) ignorance. Buy this book and read it cover to cover! Yes, we’re talking history here; but we’re also talking current events — events that could bring not only the entire developing world to its knees, but also these hallowed United States and our gracious neighbor to the north. And all because of one man, one misbegotten ideology, one group of protégés, acolytes, disciples — and yes, I’ll say it — intellectual toadies known as ‘The Chicago Boys.’

    And the IMF and the World Bank, many of whose policy makers are obvious lackeys in the service of that same ‘School of Chicago’ ideology if not to something even more sinister? Pfff!

    One caveat to all of the above: I’ve never read the original works of Milton Friedman. Nor did I ever attend any of his classes while he was still alive. I trust Ms. Klein to have reported as accurately as she has documented. If not, shame on me for being so gullible and impressionable.

    And one last thing: we all know the wide gulf that exists between the original teachings of Jesus and the way Christianity, through various churches and sects, has chosen to interpret and propagate those teachings over the centuries. Would Jesus Christ call himself a Christian by today’s standards of Christianity? Karl Marx once famously said he was no Marxist. Would Milton Friedman, given the demonic evolution of his economic theory, still call himself a Friedmanite? I fear, given his comment in the Op Ed section of The Wall Street Journal as recently as September 15, 2005 (p. 410) that he would.

    The news in the concluding chapter (“Shock Wears Off: The Rise of People’s Reconstruction”) is good: all is not lost. Let’s hope that Ms. Klein’s optimism is not as much in error as my original ignorance. Let’s hope that society — and Rousseau’s original concept of the social contract — are not yet lost.

    RRB
    05/28/13
    Brooklyn, NY
  • (3/5)
    Phasenweise sehr interessantes Buch, auch sehr gut recherchiert, aber man wird das Gefühl nicht los, das die Autorin Ressentiments ggü. gewissen Institutionen hat. Zudem ist eine gewisse Naivität in der Sichtweise der Autorin zu spüren. Jeder Mensch weiß, das die Wirtschaft und das Kapital über unser Leben herrscht. Eine Überraschung ist das schon längst nicht mehr.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I'm not going to lie. This is a dense book that requires some concentration and dedication to get through and understand. However, I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning how our global economy became both enormously stratified between the very poor and the very wealthy and addicted to the stock market highs that come from outside investment in foreign nations that can only occur when something has gone terribly wrong inside that nation.
    The author Naomi Klein does a really fantastic job of tracing her theory of shock capitalism from its roots in the psychological experiments of a Canadian doctor who believed that he could treat mentally ill people by shocking their damaged personality out of them and then, once this damaged personality was obliterated, rebuilding a healthy one on top. Unfortunately, while the doctor found the trick to erasing people by forcing them to endure electric shock therapy, sensory deprivation and other tortuous treatments, he never was able to rebuild his patients in a healthy manner.
    Klein then brings in the main actor of the book, economist Milton Friedman, and explains how he and his vast army of fundamentalist capitalists, used similar methods to enter countries which were undergoing vast shocks to their systems, such as South America in the 1970s, South Africa just after the end of apartheid, or Russia in the 1990s, and took advantage of these shocks to paste over the destruction with their own dogma of unregulated markets and privatized industry. The result was economies which made a great deal of money for very few people and left the majority of the population destitute.
    As someone who has long been concerned about the vast disparity in the wealth distribution around the world, as well as in our own country, and who was searching for answers as to how this disparity came to exist, I think I was probably predisposed to accept Klein's theory. However, I think that anyone who is interested in economics or world politics will find something to interest them.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)
    Terrifically important read! Very depressing at times to see how often the U.S. has had a hand in affairs of other countries.