Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Award-winning Canadian journalist Naomi Klein has made a career of combining her training in economics (she was a fellow at the London School of Economics), law (honorary doctor of civil laws from University of King’s College, Nova Scotia), and journalism to report on the front lines of the debate over free market globalization for The Nation and the U.K.’s The Guardian.  The short film above goes with her bestselling book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.  The film is a short introduction to her thesis, which is documented and defended at length in the book.  The idea is that disciples of economist Milton Friedman (who won a Nobel Prize in economics for his work on monetary supply, but who is better known as the most thorough advocate of radical laissez-faire capitalism) use societal shocks (invasions, coups, natural disasters, etc.) in a way similar to the way torturous interrogators use individual shocks to gain compliance with captives.  Friedman advised his disciples to use crises, shocks, to force through radical privatization of education, commerce, healthcare, prisons, even the military–while people were too numb from a crisis to know what was happening and resist.  Klein wants to document this pattern (from Pinochet’s Chile to China after Tienneman Square to Iraq under Paul Bremer to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, etc.) in order for people to recognize and resist it.  Her thesis is well worth considering.  Radical capitalism is neither the fruit not the handmaiden of democracy, but is most radical in dictatorships (e.g., Pinochet’s Chile, contemporary China, post-Communist Russia) and undermines democracy by concentrating power in business oligarchies and taking it away from the judicial and legislative branches of goverment and concentrating it in the executive–and then reducing government to bare minimum.  (It is worth noting that the insurgency in Iraq, though fanning sectarian rivalries between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, and augmented by foreign fighters from al-Qaeda, did not get any real headway until U.S. administrator Paul Bremer forced through the radical privatization of Iraqi business with sweetheart deals for U.S. business and concomitant loss of jobs for the Iraqis.  The Iraqi people saw this looting of their natural resources–against international law–as a continuation of the war against them–and THEN the insurgency grew and the U.S. death toll started to mount.  Klein contends that Abu Ghraib was a response–another shock– to a people that were refusing to be controlled. It is worth considering.  I think what has been done to New Orleans fits this pattern perfectly.)

November 30, 2007 - Posted by | democracy, economic justice, human rights., poverty


  1. I enjoyed Klein’s book “NO LOGO” and this book looks even better. Thanks for providing the video.

    Comment by Mike L. | November 30, 2007

  2. I also enjoyed No Logo but this book is significantly better. It is an utterly damning evaluation of neoclassical economics, and may well be the best book I read this year.

    Comment by dan | November 30, 2007

  3. Hey Dr, Daniel Bell’s “Liberation Theology At The End of History” fits, I think, with Klein’s arguments. Bell often talks about the disciplining power of capitalist structures (though he may be unhelpfully conflating neoliberalism and capitalism at points) through Foucault’s writings on governmentality. I hate to put a plug for my own blog, but I’ve summarized Bell’s first chap in Nov (see “Liberation theology again”).

    Personally, I’d like to do some serious historical research into the key events that Klein talks about–I’m constantly wondering if there are key aspects of the process that Klein has left out… ones that would seriously undermine or weaken her arguments. I’ll let you know if someone publishes; I have an eye out.

    Comment by J Archer | December 1, 2007

  4. Ok, then No Logo is on my reading list again.

    I hate Milton Friedman with a hatey hate.

    Comment by Doug Hagler | December 1, 2007

  5. Doug, I caution against hate, but I agree that Friedman’s views have done great harm around the world. Friedman was a disciple of Ayn Rand who thought that selfishness was a virtue. Further, both Rand and Friedman believed that Christianity was a weakness that harmed the human race by curbing the ruthless competition that their version of social Darwinism (something never expounded by Darwin himself) demanded. So, I am always surprised by how many conservative Christians are fans of Rand and Friedman. Shudder!

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | December 1, 2007

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