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The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism [Hardcover]

Naomi Klein
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 4 2007
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

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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.

"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

From Publishers Weekly

The neo-liberal economic policies—privatization, free trade, slashed social spending—that the Chicago School and the economist Milton Friedman have foisted on the world are catastrophic in two senses, argues this vigorous polemic. Because their results are disastrous—depressions, mass poverty, private corporations looting public wealth, by the author's accounting—their means must be cataclysmic, dependent on political upheavals and natural disasters as coercive pretexts for free-market reforms the public would normally reject. Journalist Klein (No Logo) chronicles decades of such disasters, including the Chicago School makeovers launched by South American coups; the corrupt sale of Russia's state economy to oligarchs following the collapse of the Soviet Union; the privatization of New Orleans's public schools after Katrina; and the seizure of wrecked fishing villages by resort developers after the Asian tsunami. Klein's economic and political analyses are not always meticulous. Likening free-market shock therapies to electroshock torture, she conflates every misdeed of right-wing dictatorships with their economic programs and paints a too simplistic picture of the Iraq conflict as a struggle over American-imposed neo-liberalism. Still, much of her critique hits home, as she demonstrates how free-market ideologues welcome, and provoke, the collapse of other people's economies. The result is a powerful populist indictment of economic orthodoxy. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
81 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable and Captivating Polemic Oct. 1 2007
Format:Hardcover
Regardless of your current beliefs regarding free-market capitalism, I believe that most people who actually read this book, (which many of the previous reviewers clearly haven't) will find it to be an important and well-researched book.

This book can be seen as the alter-ego book to Thomas Friedman's 'The World is Flat', covering many of the same issues and specific case studies. Friedman is clearly approaching free-market globalization from an optomistic and appreciative perspective, Klien clearer believes that neo-liberal economics have been imposed on countries around the world against their will, and to great detriment to human well-being.

Whatever your political persuation, anyone who has thouroughly read both books will recognize that the 'Shock Doctrine' boasts far more supportive research, to go along with the journalistic interview that form the bulk of the actual text, than Friedman's. Additionally, Klien display's a much more accurate understanding of the technicalities of capitalism than Friedman, probably due to her education at the London School of Economics. Furthermore, whereas Friedman's book reads as a summary of the ideas the have graced the cover of many large newspapers and television shows (Friedman himself works for the New York Times) Klien perspective is novel.

Clearly, this book is a polemic, it contains strong language and makes a strong argument for a particularily damning evaluation of the role of American Academics, the American Government, and many American Foundations in the forced undercutting of democracy around the world for the purpose of creating unpopular neo-liberal make-overs.
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51 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll either love it or hate it Sept. 21 2007
Format:Hardcover
Depending on where you sit on the political spectrum, this is a book you are going to love or hate. Personally, I think Naomi Klein does an excellent job providing a historical lens on some high level political and economic decisions that are being made (largely) behind closed doors. She brings these ideas to the surface where they can be openly debated and I applaud her for that. After all, that is what makes for healthy democracy.

Having living in Korea during the "Asian flu" of 1997-98 I can honestly say that her synopsis of what happened there was exceedingly accurate; and there was no doubt in my mind that the West genuinely took advantage of a country in need to create "trade advantage", force public downsizing, and to force open borders to foreign investment. No matter what you think of her politics, this is definitely worth reading, and I for one, am the better informed for it. Thank you Ms. Klein!
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars De-construction of that past 30 years Oct. 14 2007
Format:Hardcover
Economics is the bed-rock of society, and has precipitated more than a few political ousters. But what if economic shock therapy and regimes the world around were inherently linked?

This is the subject of Naomi Klein's latest novel.

The Shock Doctrine is a whirlwind look at history through the eyes of a dominant school of economic thought, the University of Chiacgo. It goes from South America to Europe, eventually returning home to America in cataloguing the effects of the Chicago School. By extending the Nobel-prize winning Amnesty International Human Rights report on General Pinochet's Argentianian torture regime, it adds necessary context that North Americans have lost out on.

It all came down to a flood of funding to free market think tanks from companies opposed to FDR's Keynesian New Deal, and from the lack of competition from the fall of Communism; she talks about the lack of funding and lack of a Marshall Plan for post-Soviet Russia and post-Saddam Iraq. As any free market-er knows, competition is the foundation for a healthy and innovative market.

Klein happens upon an important idea called the "Davos Dilemma", which contradicts the idea that global trade would bring world peace. She ties this in to the lack of progress in peace between the Israelis and Palestinians since the 1990s, linking that to the burgeoning homeland security bubble that Israel now offers the world with the slogan, "it's our birthright".

In the end, she says no conspiracies are required. It all comes down to companies doing their jobs, to profit their shareholders. The problem is in governments relinquishing their jobs to act in the public interest to companies with countervailing interests.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book for linking .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I'm giving this book a 4 star rating because even though I think it is a very important work, it is far from presenting a flawless argument.

In The Shock Doctrine Klein describes how "Friedmanite" neo-liberal economic policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization have been implemented over the past 40 years. The book provides a detailed account of many instances where these economic policies have been forcibly implemented against people's wishes through coercion and dictatorship or sneakily introduced during periods of national weakness such as after the "shock" of disasters, natural or man-made.

In fact, the central theme of the book is that neo-liberal economic policies are virtually always opposed by a majority of people in a society and can therefore only be implemented when people are under a state of shock. Klein demonizes Milton Friedman and others belonging to the Chicago School of Economics. According to Klein, the economic policies that these "Chicago Boys" advocate are something akin to pure evil and because they so often have to be implemented by force, Klein puts some of the blame for many atrocities on the people that have advocated those policies. This interpretation of events will seem far-fetched to some but Klein does bring a new and interesting perspective that shouldn't be ignored.

Unfortunately, The Shock Doctrine is very much a one-sided argument focusing on historical facts that strengthen the "shock and awe" theme that is central to the book while for the most part totally ignoring potential counter-arguments.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings Order Out of What's Behind the Chaos
This is a scholarly, exhaustively-footnoted work by a brilliant author. Klein's underlying premise is that disciples and acolytes of neocon economist Milton Friedman and his... Read more
Published 3 months ago by K. S. Puls
5.0 out of 5 stars The Shock Doctrine
This should be required reading in all Universities, and by all politicians. Naomi Klein has nailed the politics of profit perfectly, and made me consider Canadian and American... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Fae Hansen
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely incredible!
Of countless books I have read on economics over the course of the last 20 years, The Shock Doctrine is undoubtedly the most outstanding. Read more
Published on Dec 29 2011 by deminann
5.0 out of 5 stars The Shock Doctrine
This an excellent book, an eye opener. It gives you a lot of objective information supported by facts.
Naomi Klein has written this book in a way that keeps you reading. Read more
Published on July 12 2011 by Eugenia
2.0 out of 5 stars The Shlock Doctor
As one reviewer has stated, this is "an important and well researched book". Unfortunately, that is as far as I can go with my praise of this imaginative fiction. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2010 by D Glover
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Research Suffers From Poor Analysis
"... and so Milton Friedman walked into the flames, sprouted horns and a tail, and chuckled sinisterly to himself about the destruction he had wrought. Read more
Published on July 29 2010 by Ian Robertson
2.0 out of 5 stars ugh
I have to agree with all the other reviewers giving it 1 star. This is a painful read, and only enlightening to the most naive reader. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2010 by Ken Watkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly What I needed
I am in a First Year university political science course and we had to do a critical book review. This book is exactly what I was looking for, cementing everything that I learned... Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2010 by Alex K. Williams
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad read, but tough to get through
I purchased this book hoping to see how "disaster capitalism" works. While the book achieved this aim, it did so in a less than pleasing way. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2010 by Keith E. Brannen
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, solid book, but really needed a good edit.
I absolutely loved Klein's No Logo, and while I did not turn it into a personal bible and start attending anti-WTO protests, I was intrigued enough by her conclusions that her... Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2009 by Jason A. Martin
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