Naomi Klein: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Written by  //  September 5, 2007  //  Aid & Development, Business, Economy, Globalization, Wednesday Nights  //  1 Comment

Forcing change on the weak
Economists’ shock therapy harms many, Naomi Klein says

Naomi Klein, of No Logo fame, has come out with a sweeping analysis claiming that extreme capitalism, methodically enforced upon disaster-stricken countries by global corporations, is a threat to us all.
In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Klein brings in the hoary spectre of Ewen Cameron’s brainwashing experiments carried out for the CIA at the Allan Memorial Institute in the 1950s and ’60s, setting up a metaphor that gets stretched to the limit….. The number of times the word shock is used within this searing polemic is overwhelming.
The enemy, according to Klein, is an elite group of free-market economists trained by Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, who enabled brutal dictatorships like that of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile to prevail, all in the name of democracy. The “Chicago School” taught that free enterprise and democracy are inseparable. Yet in the Southern Cone of Latin America, this “contemporary religion of free markets” was “predicated on the overthrow of democracy … (and) required the systematic murder of tens of thousands and the torture of between 100,000 and 150,000 people,” Klein writes.
… Klein has amassed a mountain of disturbing evidence to back her argument that applying extreme capitalism to war-torn or disaster-struck areas can worsen the situation for ordinary people.
… Friedman is not the only prominent economist to come under fire. Klein digs into the past of Harvard-educated Jeffrey Sachs (The End of Poverty), now known as an enthusiastic anti-poverty crusader – and sidekick of rock star Bono. Not so very long ago, she reveals, Sachs was an avid promoter of radical capitalism in Bolivia (the cocaine trade prospered wonderfully), Poland (unemployment skyrocketed and the people rebelled against privatization) and Russia, where he served as a freelance adviser to Boris Yeltsin (enough said). These were not great success stories.
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice-President Dick Cheney get a thorough going over regarding the war in Iraq. But U.S. President George W. Bush gets off relatively easy, painted as a pawn within a hollow, outsourced government that’s no longer really governing. It’s the Friedman-tutored, ambulance-chasing economists who really take the lion’s share of the heat in this surprisingly American book, written by a Canada-based dual citizen.
… The Shock Doctrine is not light reading. But it is remarkably accessible to the layman. Jaw-dropping revelations, about things like the number of mercenary soldiers in Iraq or the ruthless manner in which developers seized beach-front property in tsunami-hit countries like Thailand, keep the reader glued to the page.
In quoting Machiavelli to introduce a chapter, Klein shows some awareness that war profiteering wasn’t invented in Chicago. But the 21st century offers unprecedented global mobility – and global scale. Now it’s easier for neo-conservative economists, legitimate business interests, do-gooders, freelance journalists, reality-TV producers and organized criminals to travel around the globe, finding opportunity where they may.
… There’s no denying that a hefty book about the rise of “disaster capitalism” is going to be much more palatable to those who regard capitalism itself as an inherent disaster. But Klein herself is no fire-breathing Marxist. Her vision of utopia embraces a Keynesian-style mixed economy, and enough public institutions to ensure basic justice for all. …

One Comment on "Naomi Klein: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson October 28, 2007 at 9:14 am ·

    28 October 2007
    With thanks to David Mitchell OWN for calling this to our attention.
    The business press and me: a case of unrequited love
    Finance journalists have attacked my book, but I remain devoted to their papers. After all, they supplied the facts I used

    Naomi Klein
    October 25, 2007
    … When I get worried about inadvertently fueling the disaster complex, I take comfort in the response the book has elicited from the world’s leading business journalists. That’s where I learn that the very notion of disaster capitalism is my delusion – or, as Otto Reich, former adviser to President George Bush, told BBC Business Daily, it is the work “of a very confused person”.
    Many publications have seen fit to assign business journalists to review the book. And why not? They are the experts. Unabashed fans of the late free-market evangeliser Milton Friedman, these are our primary purveyors of the idea that ballooning corporate profits are on the verge of trickling down to the citizens of the world in the form of freedom and democracy. More

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