The Shock Doctrine

The Shock Doctrine

The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Book - 2008
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Winner of the 2009 Warwick Prize for Writing

"Only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around."
--Milton Friedman

The shock doctrine is the unofficial story of how the "free market" came to dominate the world, from Chile to Russia, China to Iraq, South Africa to Canada. But it is a story radically different from the one usually told. It is a story about violence and shock perpetrated on people, on countries, on economies. About a program of social and economic engineering that is driving our world, that Naomi Klein calls "disaster capitalism."

Based on breakthrough historical research and four years of on-the-ground reporting in disaster zones, Klein explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically, and that unfettered capitalism goes hand-in-hand with democracy. Instead, she argues it has consistently relied on violence and shock, and reveals the puppet strings behind the critical events of the last four decades.

"The shock doctrine" is the influential but little understood theory that in order to push through profoundly unpopular policies that enrich the few and impoverish the many, there needs to be some kind of collective crisis or disaster - either real or manufactured. A crisis that opens up a "window of opportunity" - when people and societies are too disoriented to protect their own interests - for radically remaking countries using the trademark tactic of rapid-fire economic shock therapy and, all too often, less metaphorical forms of shock: the shock of the police truncheon, the Taser gun or the electric prod in the prison cell.

Klein vividly traces the origins of modern shock tactics back to the economic lab of the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman in the 60s, and beyond to the CIA-funded electroshock experiments at McGill University in the 50s which helped write the torture manuals used today at Guantanamo Bay. She details, in this riveting - indeed shocking - story, the well-known events of the recent past that have been deliberate, active theatres for the shock doctrine: among them, Pinochet''s coup in Chile in 1973, the Falklands War in 1982, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991; and, more recently, the September 11 attacks, the "Shock and Awe" invasion of Iraq, the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. And she shows how - in the hands of the Bush Administration - the "war on terror" is a thin cover for a thriving destruction/ reconstruction complex, with disasters, wars and homeland security fuelling a booming new economy. Naomi Klein has once again written a book that will change the way we see the world.

"The world is a messy place, and someone has to clean it up."
--Condoleezza Rice, September 2002, on the need to invade Iraq

"George''s answer to any problem at the ranch is to cut it down with a chainsaw. Which I think is why he and Cheney and Rumsfeld get along so well."
--Laura Bush

From Chile to China to Iraq, torture has been a silent partner in the global free market crusade. But torture is more than a tool used to enforce unwanted policies on rebellious peoples; it is also a metaphor of the shock doctrine''s underlying logic. Torture, or in CIA language "coercive interrogation," is a set of techniques designed to put prisoners into a state of deep disorientation and shock in order to force them to make concessions against their will. ...The shock doctrine mimics this process precisely, attempting to achieve on a mass scale what torture does one on one in the interrogation cell. ...The original disaster - the coup, the terrorist attack, the market meltdown, the war, the tsunami, the hurricane - puts the entire population into a state of collective shock. The falling bombs, the bursts of terror, the pounding winds serve to soften up whole societies much as the blaring music and blows in the torture cells soften up prisoners. Like the terrorized prisoner who gives up the names of comrades and renounces his faith, shocked societies often give up things they would otherwise fiercely protect.
--from Shock Doctrine


From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: Toronto, Ont. : Vintage Canada, 2008, c2007.
ISBN: 9780676978018
9780676978001
Branch Call Number: 306.342 KLE
Characteristics: 662 p. ; 23 cm.

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lukasevansherman
Dec 15, 2015

One of the most ambitious, trenchant & relevant books of the decade, Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine," arrived in the midst of globalization, war on terror and the Bush presidency. Klein is an unapologetic leftist who attacks the basic and often taken for granted tenants of free market capitalism, exposing its dark ideological heart and its disasterous consequences for the poor and disenfranchised. Fiercely intelligent, challenging and articulate, this is one of the rare books the can change the way you think.

d
darlenestrom
Apr 03, 2015

No need to ask what has gone wrong in the world for the past few decades, it is all here! I kept saying to myself, 'so that's what happened'! Fascinating, very readable book. This is knowledge that every Canadian needs because this is also happening in our own country.

s
shepvideo
Aug 09, 2014

It's been about 4 years since I read this book. After I did I found it to be one of the most important communications of this new century. I still feel that way, so I had to get on here to counter the neo-con/neo-liberal bias of some of the commenters. This is a seminal work and for good reason a major best seller. "The Shock Doctrine," explains so much about the success of the forces of wealth and big corporate elite dominance of our economically contracting World. Just read it and decide for yourself. Nothing will stop and can only partially ameliorate the triple crises of the century; resource depletion, climate disruption, and overblown human population. It pays to know how the status quo swings, and Ms. Klein can teach you a lot about that.

redban Dec 19, 2013

Excellent historical and social policy insight. For a direct critique of Wall Street, Matt Taibbi's "Griftopia" is most recommended!

To StarGladiator: I'd say Naomi is sincere; she doesn't push it as far in the pure Economics sense because that is not her expertise.

paul1's comment using "stats" as "proof" is on the level of a Grade 3 science experiment.

Thoughtlessly clobbering together 3 stats of different magnitudes/context/timeframes/methodologies, piling this on a mountain of assumptions, and proclaiming it as proof... great.

The term "Free Market" represents both a theory (some would say a myth) and a practice. Ms. Klein is critiquing the practice (which is characterized by resource exploitation and financial hegemony), while scholars like Ha-Joon Chang can show you the difference between the practice and the myth.

But seriously... on the international level (Asia, Latin America, Africa, Middle East), European decolonization and trying to rebuild after decades of American corporate interventions are hardly accomplishments of so-called Free Markets. In statistics, correlation does not mean causation, but your correlations are not even sound! The "Free Markets" practiced are obviously scams when third-world populist leaders trying to nationalize resources are assassinated and foreign-sponsored death squads patrol the land while multinational corporations loot the resources. Yes, it is quite "free" for multinational corporations, just as Free Trade agreements "free" multinational corporations from the laws of sovereign nations.

s
StarGladiator
Jun 04, 2013

I always have a problem when there's too much missing information, or a purposeful reframing. Certainly, as far as privatization is concerned, Reagan established the Office of Privatization (Executive Order #12615) within OMB to privatize as much of government as possible, it was under Clinton when the governmental privatization exploded. Plus, it was Robert Rubin, who had been in Clinton's administration, who founded the Hamilton Project (within the Brookings Institution) to privatize everything, while Obama would go on to appoint a bunch of people from the Hamilton Project! (Naomi fails to mention that it was Rockefeller and the Rockefeller family who funded, and continues to fund, the University of Chicago - - especially their economics, business and law colleges.) With the information now out that Klein is on Rockefeller front groups (board of directors), and I've long felt Bill McGibben was nothing more than a "corporate environmentalist" fraud, and that has now come to light, I shall be ignoring everything about Naomi Klein, as I already have as far as neophyte McGibben (finally was first arrested in 2012, and won't let anyone forget that!), in the future!

t
toby1kenobi
Jul 04, 2011

Comprehensive look at various key moments in history where a shock to the system was used to usher in radical economic reforms, using Milton Freidman's theories. Klein stunningly brings together research debunking the notion that the free market has democratically won the battle of ideas. Really worth the many months it will take to read!

p
pirastro
Aug 20, 2010

Well, maybe...One can see it this way sometimes. Not really sure if anything has really changed, though.

p
paul1
Apr 24, 2010

A narrative containing a thin veneer of truthiness. Klein relies on the vivid anecdote, which is all that can buttress her thesis. During the period of the supposed rise of the neo-cons, or Friedmanites, or libertarians (her phraseolgy is imprecise and variable) most objective measures of the state of humanity point to increased standards of living. For example, the International Labor Organization reports between 2002 and 2007, the number of children attending school instead of working rose 11%. Global infant mortality fell 60% between 1960 and 2005. Nutrition in developing countries shows that portion of under-nourished people declined from 37% to 17%. Proof that free markets and globalization works, despite naysayers like Klein.

g
gestr
Dec 10, 2009

A heavy dose of reality. What the news does not tell us.

v
vickiz
Dec 18, 2008

Overall, I feel like I learned a lot, as I did with "No Logo". I'm also filled with even more admiration for Klein's intellect and tenacity with complex, thorny, overwhelming subject matter. Unlike "No Logo", however, "Shock Doctrine" left me feeling pretty bleak, hopeless and powerless. It wasn't until mere pages from the end that Klein starts to give examples of people rising up against and finding ways to resist being shocked into accepting the Freidmanesque privatization of government and social services - almost as if she is pretty weary and despairing of the subject, too.

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gekovic Jun 16, 2011

“The truly powerful feed ideology to the masses like fast food while they dine on the most rarified delicacy of all: impunity.”
Naomi Klein

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