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The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster…

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007)

by Naomi Klein

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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As with all books that I don't finish, I'm not entering a star rating. Still, I got through about 75% of it and I thought I'd say a few words about it, for it was both a revelation and a huge irritant.
The Shock Doctrine is about the Chicago School economists, spearheaded for many years by the late Milton Friedman. He and those who share his philosophy have had a profound effect on the world economy, leveraging the power of the World Bank and IMF to dictate the actions and policies of governments around the globe.
The basic concept of the shock doctrine is that in order to stimulate economic change in a nation -- namely, to move it toward capitalism, privatization and deregulation, it can take a crisis, a shock to the system, so to speak. That crisis can be a natural disaster or the product of human intervention. Over the years, human intervention has become a common choice, and for that reason, we see questionable wars, coups supported by shady organizations, and the arm-twisting conditions imposed by the IMF when governments are in desperate need of assistance.
I wasn't aware of any of this, and Naomi Klein's research and clear explanations really opened my eyes. I'm both disgusted and alarmed by what I learned. I think that everyone should be aware of this recent arc of history, and Klein's book is a great way to get the idea.
So, why the frustration? Why didn't I finish the book? In my opinion, Klein was in desperate need of a strong-willed editor when she wrote this. She undermines her own credibility, over and over, in a couple of ways:
First of all, peoples' words and actions speak for themselves, but she sometimes insists on casting aspersions upon them: for instance, she first introduces Vladmir Putin by describing him as "vaguely sinister looking." True, not true, whatever, this subjective remark is designed to vilify someone whose actions already make him villainous. So, it comes off as silly and makes her read like a less reliable writer.
Second, and worse, Klein tends to use isolated, one or two sentence quotes from various people, and then use them to draw conclusions about that person's motivation or perspective -- conclusions that absolutely can't be reached via the quote she selected. Now it could be that Klein meticulously researched the people in question and that her statements are all accurate. Nevertheless, if she chooses to quote someone briefly and without context, and to leap from that quote to a conclusion that it doesn't justify, well, it's sloppy and disappointing.
One day perhaps, I will pick this back up and finish it, but by the time I got three-quarters of the way through, I could see very well where The Shock Doctrine was headed, and I was too annoyed to slog my way to the end. While I am glad I learned what I did, I wish that someone had handed Klein her manuscript back with a whole lot of red ink.
  ksimon | Feb 6, 2014 |
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. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
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 ( )
  literateowl | Dec 11, 2013 |
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. ( )
  azrowan | Nov 9, 2013 |
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 vote Kwarizmi | Aug 28, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
The Shock Doctrine shows in chilling detail how the free market has been backed up with violence over the last 30 years. I suspect it has stirred up a debate already.


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Naomi Kleinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wiltsie, JenniferNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Any change is a change in the topic. -Cesar Aira, Argentine novelist, Cumpleanos, 2001
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Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine advances a truly unnerving argument: historically, while people were reeling from natural disasters, wars and economic upheavals, savvy politicians and industry leaders nefariously implemented policies that would never have passed during less muddled times. As Klein demonstrates, this reprehensible game of bait-and-switch isn't just some relic from the bad old days. It's alive and well in contemporary society, and coming soon to a disaster area near you.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312427999, Paperback)

Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine advances a truly unnerving argument: historically, while people were reeling from natural disasters, wars and economic upheavals, savvy politicians and industry leaders nefariously implemented policies that would never have passed during less muddled times. As Klein demonstrates, this reprehensible game of bait-and-switch isn't just some relic from the bad old days. It's alive and well in contemporary society, and coming soon to a disaster area near you.

"At the most chaotic juncture in Iraq'' civil war, a new law is unveiled that will allow Shell and BP to claim the country's vast oil reserves… Immediately following September 11, the Bush Administration quietly outsources the running of the 'War on Terror' to Halliburton and Blackwater… After a tsunami wipes out the coasts of Southeast Asia, the pristine beaches are auctioned off to tourist resorts… New Orleans residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, discover that their public housing, hospitals and schools will never be re-opened." Klein not only kicks butt, she names names, notably economist Milton Friedman and his radical Chicago School of the 1950s and 60s which she notes "produced many of the leading neo-conservative and neo-liberal thinkers whose influence is still profound in Washington today." Stand up and take a bow, Donald Rumsfeld.

There's little doubt Klein's book--which arrived to enormous attention and fanfare thanks to her previous missive, the best-selling No Logo, will stir the ire of the right and corporate America. It's also true that Klein's assertions are coherent, comprehensively researched and footnoted, and she makes a very credible case. Even if the world isn't going to hell in a hand-basket just yet, it's nice to know a sharp customer like Klein is bearing witness to the backroom machinations of government and industry in times of turmoil. --Kim Hughes

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:26 -0400)

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An introduction to the concept of "disaster capitalism" offers an expos of how the global "free market" has exploited crises, violence, and shock over the past three decades to promote radical privatization that benefits large corporations and powerful interest groups.… (more)

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