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174 of 194 found the following review helpful:
Using "disaster captialism" to change society and its negative impact Dec 11, 2007
By Wayne Klein
"If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.-Albert Einstein"
**FYI** Please note to the best of my knowledge I am NOT related to Naomi Klein.**
If you wonder what happened to the middle class, why poverty is on the rise and what the economies in a democracracy, dictatorship and "communism" have in common, you'll find lots of food for thought in Naomi Klein's THE SHOCK DOCTRINE. Tracing the rise of the "Chicago Boys" laissez-faire economic beliefs, their impact on South America, China, Russia, Poland and South Africa and how it impacted their form of government, Klein makes a compelling argument for the flaws in Milton Friedman's economic science.
Naomi Klein's book looks at the conflict between Milton Friedman's "laissez-faire" approach to business and government where business is largely unregulated running itself and government is little more than a bare bones system. According to Klein, Friedman believed that the economic theories he espoused would be perfect and that any problems with it would be due to outside forces interferring with his free market world. His approach was in complete contrast to Keynes who believed that the prime mission of politicians and economists was to prevent unemployment and avoid a depression or recession by regulating the market place. People like John Kenneth Galbraith (heir to Keynes' mantle)believed part of the purpose of economic regulation was to keep our captalist system fair and prevent a small group of businesses from dominating the market. Galbraith also believed in bills like the Glass-Steagall act which created a firewall between Wall Street and various banking institutions (which former President Clinton helped to eliminate). The net result would be to prevent recreating disasters like the Great Depression and 1929 stock market crash (the current version of which contributed to part of the economic mess we're in today).
It's the conflict between these two economic philosphies that allows our economic world to thrive. You'll have to decide for yourself how accurately she reflects each man's philosphy based on what you know about each respective philosphy but I found, for the most part, that the book gave a pretty accurate summation of the benefits and issues at the core of each, as well as which classes benefit the most.
Klein suggests that "disaster capitalism", i.e., introducing radical changes in terms of economic and government policy when a country is in "shock" (taking advantage of the fact that massed resistence is unlikely to that change), is allowing the rise of unchecked multi-national corporations that take advantage of and damage our society in the process. She suggests that Friedman's beliefs that the market will manage itself and that free market capitalism undermined the Soviet Union is an idealized and naive belief. The impact for good and bad is that a business functions like a plant. If it receives too much sunlight and water, it will overgrow and strangle out everything else in the economic ecosystem. The net result would cause the system to become unbalanced with human suffering and economic disaster as the result if left unchecked. She traces a parallel path between the rise of Friedman's economic philosphy and the rise of human rights violations, rise and fall of various governments throughout the world and the opportunism of the business world to exploit it.
She ties all of this together looking at the economic policies and beliefs that are reshaping American society--for good and bad--into a different society where the gap between the wealthy and the poor continues to expand and one where the free market society is being radically retooled. The result is a society where the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. The pressured middle class continues to shrink. This undermines the foundation of our economic growth. This book will probably divide those along the more extreme political lines but has the ring of truth nevertheless.
Klein crafts a fascinating book. Although some of her observations might be a bit of a stretch and her arguments occasionally flawed, she provides compelling evidence to support her thesis and connects the dots of events that might otherwise appear to be unrelated. Whether or not you agree with Klein or are outraged by her evidence, you'll find plenty of food for thought in her book.
754 of 874 found the following review helpful:
A Stunning and Well-Researched Indictment of Friedmanian Neoliberalism Sep 26, 2007
By Steve Koss
Naomi Klein's THE SHOCK DOCTRINE is a stunning indictment of American corporatism and institutionalized globalization, on a par with such groundbreaking works as Harrington's THE OTHER AMERICA and Chomsky's HEGEMONY OR SURVIVAL. Comprehensive in its breadth and remarkable for its well-researched depth, Klein's book is a highly readable but disturbing look at how the neoliberal economic tenets of Milton Friedman have been implemented across the world over the last thirty-plus years.
The author's thesis is simply stated: that neoliberal economic programs have repeatedly been implemented without the consent of the governed by creating and/or taking advantage of various forms of national shock therapy. Ms. Klein asserts that in country after country, Friedman and his Chicago School followers have foisted their tripartite economic prescription - privatization, deregulation, and cutbacks in social welfare spending - on an unsuspecting populace through decidedly non-democratic means. In the early years, the primary vehicle was dictatorial military force and accompanying fear of arrest, torture, disappearance, or death. Over time, new organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank were employed instead, using or creating impossible debt burdens to force governments to accept privatization of state-owned industries and services, complete removal of trade barriers and tariffs, forced acceptance of private foreign investment, and widespread layoffs. In more recent years, terrroism and its response as well as natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis have wiped clean enough of the slate to impose these Friedmanite policies on people too shocked and focused on recovering to realize what was happening until it was too late.
According to Ms. Klein's thesis, these revolutionary economic programs were the "medicine" deemed necessary by neoliberal, anti-Keynesian economists to bring underdeveloped countries into the global trading community. Ms. Klein argues her case in convincing detail a long chronological line of historical cases. Each chapter in her book surveys one such situation, from Chile under Pinochet and Argentina under military junta through Nicaragua and Honduras, Bolivia under Goni, post-apartheid South Africa, post-Solidarity Poland, Russia under Yeltsin, China since Tiananmen, reconstruction of Iraq after the U.S. invasion, Sri Lanka after the tsunami, Israel after 9/11, and New Orleans post-Katrina. Along the way, she lets various neoliberal economists and Chicago School practitioners speak for themselves - we hear their "shock therapy" views in their own words. As just one example, this arrogant and self-righteous proclamation from the late Professor Friedman: "Only a crisis - actual or perceived - producs real change...our basic function, to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable."
What the author makes inescapably clear is that the world economic order has been largely remade in Milton Friedman's image in the last few decades by adopting programs that would never have been democratically accepted by the common people. Military coups, violence and force, wars, induced hyperinflation, terrorism, preemptive war, climate disasters - these have been the disruptive vehicles that allowed such drastic economic packages to be imposed. Nearly always, they are developed in secrecy and implemented too rapidly for citizens to respond. The end results, as Ms.Klein again makes clear, are massive (and too often, continuing) unemployment, large price increases for essential goods, closing of factories, enormous increases in people living in poverty, explosive concentration of wealth among a small elite, and extraordinary opportunity for rapacious capitalism from American and European corporations.
Ms. Klein argues that from its humble beginnings as an economic philosophy, the neoliberal program has evolved (or perhaps devolved) into a form of corporatism. Particularly in America, government under mostly Republican adminstrations has hollowed itself out, using private sector contractors for nearly every conceivable task. Companies ranging from Lockheed and Halliburton to ChoicePoint, Blackwater, CH2M Hill, and DynCorp exist almost entirely to secure lucrative government contracts to perform work formerly done by government. They now operate in a world the author describes as "disaster capitalism," waiting and salivating over the profits to be made in the next slate-wiping war or disaster, regardless of the human cost. In an ominous closing discussion, Ms. Klein describes the privatization of government in wealthy Atlanta suburbs, a further step in self-serving and preemptive corporatism guaranteed to hollow out whatever is left of major American cities if it becomes a widespread practice.
THE SHOCK DOCTRINE is truly a head-shaking read. One can only marvel at the imperiousness of past (mostly) American governmental behavior, the grievous callousness of it all, the massive human despair and suffering created for no other reason than economic imperialism, and the nauseating greed of (mostly Republican) politicians, former political operatives, and corporate executives who prey like pack wolves on people's powerlessness and insecurity. Reading this book, one can no longer ask the question, "Why do they hate us?" The answer is obvious, and no amount of hyperventilation from Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, or Fox News can erase the facts and consequences of behavior that we as a country have implicitly or explicitly endorsed.
THE SHOCK DOCTRINE proves itself as shaming of modern American governmental policy as Dee Brown's epic of 19th Century America, BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. It is an essential read for intelligent citizens who want to understand the roots of globalization and its blowback effects on our lives.
332 of 388 found the following review helpful:
An important read with some shortcomings Oct 27, 2007
By Justin M. Feldman
Naomi Klein has written this book about the rise of what she calls "disaster capitalism": the global imposition/adoption of Chicago School (neoliberal) economics since the early 1970s. This is a particularly important book because, while many have written about the same topic, I have never seen it treated in a form that is both holistic (ie. a global history) and accessible (ie. largely free from the academic jargon of economics and social theory). The book does suffer from some problems however.
Klein's main thesis is problematic. She writes that the idea of economic shock therapy arose out of the same logic as Electric Convulsive Therapy (ECT). This idea is to create or exploit a destructive event in order to create regression, passivity, and a 'blank slate' on which to build a new order. In supporting this thesis, Klein uses all of Part I of her book to write about psychological torture and the CIA's mind control experiments. She attempts to develop a 'poetics of torture' that links the individual violence of ECT to the structural violence that occurs when neoliberalism is imposed as a governing strategy. Klein is no poet however, and the metaphor seems to die pretty early on in the book. She does thankfully offer a more implicit thesis that she invokes more regularly and supports more thoroughly: free markets did not develop through freedom, but through authoritarian or technocratic interventions.
Secondly, Klein treats capitalism as if it were only 35 years old. Her book however is thematically similar to the work of another woman who wrote on the same issues a century before: Rosa Luxemburg. By only going as far back as the rise of Keynsianism and developmentalism, Klein makes it seem as though neoliberalism is a radical historical exception. Yet it seems that, since the industrial revolution, it is Keynsianism that itself was the historical exception.
This book is mostly comprised of what are essentially case studies. Each case study could certainly be expanded into its own 600-page book, so simplification was necessary. I think that it is also necessary for the author to explicitly admit the complexity of any situation beyond just the power of market forces, which act strongly and ubiquitously but never alone. I think she does admit the shortcomings of her case studies for Israel/Palestine, South Africa, and Iraq (her best and most personally-involved ones), but not for the rest.
All in all, this book is worth a read and is a good introduction to one of the most powerful forces of our times. I just hope that it inspires people to read some other books that illuminate more of the complexities in regards to the theory and practice of neoliberalism in our communities, countries, and worlds. I particularly recommend David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism.
274 of 352 found the following review helpful:
Shockingly Powerful Jul 14, 2008
By Edwin C. Pauzer
The late Milton Friedman, the renowned economist, believed that democracy and a free-market economy went hand-in-hand, that the greatest threat to both was nationalization, government regulation, and social spending. He preached this philosophy to his disciples at the University of Chicago School of Economics, and they would go forth spreading the Gospel according to the Book of Milton.
There is also the International Monetary Fund, an agency founded after World War II to help struggling countries and their economies get back on their feet. Many of its managers and policy makers will be graduates of the Chicago School of Economics, and they will begin to impose the Friedman creed wherever possible.
There is only one thing wrong. No population seems to vote in the people who support their brand of economics. Its first success is when a socialist, democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, is overthrown and killed when the presidential palace is stormed by fascists. Augusto Pinochet comes into power and immediately places the "Chicago boys" in charge of the economy. With the death of price controls and lunch programs, Chileans find themselves spending one quarter of their monthly salaries just to buy bread. They will leave hours earlier for work than usual because they can no longer afford public transportation. Even Chile's social security program, once a model of efficiency is privatized, becoming virtually worthless overnight. Chilean children begin fainting in school from lack of food or milk and many stop attending altogether.
The story of Chile will be repeated in Argentina, Bolivia, China, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Russia where the IMF will demand that borrowers meet Draconian conditions before they lend money. In each case these austerity measures will be made overnight, all at once. A shocked population will come to their senses if such radical changes are made over time. They will be able to organize, mobilize and challenge the implementation of such policies. It has to come all at once, right after elections, a coup, or a hurricane when the population will be too dazed and disorganized to respond. This will be the shock, or as author Naomi Klein calls it, shock doctrine. For those who are still lucid, there is the next step in the shock doctrine, terrorize, torture, or make them disappear.
In each case, in each country, prices on food and other common items will go through the roof, the number of destitute will increase exponentially, and democracy will be squashed. In China, the communist elite will impose these changes on the masses while ensuring that they will profit handsomely from the economic and social upheaval. President Clinton will cheer the economic shock doctrine instituted by Boris Yeltsin as he dissolves the Court and the Parliament, bringing the Russian army out to attack the latter, which killed more than 300 people and several deputies. A new class of super mega apparatchiks will emerge increasing the divide between the "have mores" and the "have nothings," and Russians will put up with a few KGB murders and disappearances for the promise of stability that Vladimir Putin will provide.
The Polish people, fed up with the broken promises of Solidarity who succumbed to IMF demands to relieve them of their crushing debt, will be thrown out of office in 1996 elections. Nelson Mandela will focus so much on achieving political control of South Africa he will neglect the real political power of controlling the economic engines that run the nation. He soon discovers that without economic power, he has no political muscle. He becomes a slave of economic apartheid. Shanty towns will get larger and people will become poorer. The population is disillusioned with their new-found "equality." The tsunami in Sri Lanka will allow the hoteliers to make a deal with the government, and place security guards around the beaches of what once belonged to villagers who fished from there for hundreds of years. After all, what right did they have to be there? Besides, the smell of fish made their guests complain. They will be driven inland where they will be given boats and houses, just no access to water to fish.
But that could never be allowed to happen here, or could it? One of the first things President George W. Bush does after he finally realizes what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is remove union wage scale that contractors would have to pay to laborers. (After all, it is the corporations that must benefit the most from disaster capitalism, not the people of New Orleans). The shock has begun as developers are already seeing how they can take over the utterly destroyed neighborhoods of the poor and turn them into luxury condos and hotels. Charter schools are replacing the public schools and teachers. Contractors will wake up illegal laborers in the night to tell them that the Immigration officers are coming to arrest them. They will run away without having been paid. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, once a functional, effective, national emergency response unit, has had so much work farmed out to contractors, it cannot mount an effective response to the disaster. They will pay top dollar for roofing that can be done at a fraction of the cost. They will supply trailers for homeless that are made of material unsafe to breathe, and people will die in a stadium because no one can take care of them.
In Iraq, the local population rose up after our invasion and began to elect their own leaders and councils. They announced plans to take over city governments, services and industry. When Iraqis were asked what they wanted more of when surveyed, they clamored for more government jobs. But L. Paul Bremer wasn't about to allow democracy to get in the way of disaster capitalism. He ordered the military to disband all local democratic initiatives, which he replaced with a council not chosen by the Iraqi people, but by him.
George Bush talks democracy (in Iraq), but walks capitalism by performing a Marshal Plan in reverse. The original plan implemented right after World War II called for keeping foreign investors out of Germany. Our government wanted the Germans to be able to build up their own industry and wealth. Not so in Iraq. Unemployed and starving Iraqis watched how American contractors brought in cheap Asian labor to rebuild their country. Iraqi unemployment remains at approximately sixty percent. American oil companies and American banks make long-term contracts with the new Iraqi government, and the IMF wants Iraq to sell off its own oil industry to foreigners. The second largest military commitment in Iraq, after the Americans, will be mercenaries.
Does anyone wonder why there is an insurgency? "No 'capitalization' without representation!"
The author makes it clear. In every country that holds free elections, no one votes for the shock doctrine of disaster capitalism. No one will vote away social programs, controls, or selling off their industries and companies to foreign investors. Klein's conclusion? Capitalism and democracy are not inherently compatible as Friedman always believed. It was just the opposite.
This book is powerful and moving. As I reread my review, I feel I have not done her book justice in relating the power and depth of Naomi Klein's words. Her documentation is exceptional. Her ability to craft together different events and present them in a coherent and believable hypothesis is necromantic.
Once in a while you find a book, a special book, one you keep as a reference, a "go-to" one. This is such a text. It is one of the two most important I have read for 2008. I have enough admiration for this woman's work that I would buy anything she writes, without hesitation. Her writing will hold your attention.
"The Shock Doctrine" is eye-opening and of course, absolutely shocking.
July 14, 2008
Bastille Day--How Appropriate.
329 of 424 found the following review helpful:
The New "New Economy" Sep 18, 2007
In THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, Naomi Klein brilliantly proposes a compelling counter-story to the prevailing fable of free market infallibility. Buttressed by painstaking and wide-ranging research, and an ability to see connections where others only see coincidence, Ms. Klein amply shows that profit-making is not the essence of democracy as Milton Friedman and his minions would have it. She shows instead that the machinery of the state and the requirements of "disaster capitalism" are now so tightly synchronized in their exploitation of disasters both man-made and natural as to be virtually one in the same.
Citing pertinent examples to prove her thesis that "disaster capitalism" is now rampant around the world - in Russia, in China, in Iraq to name just a few - she describes how in times of crisis, elites everywhere have learned that they can profit by implementing policies, e.g., "shock therapy" or "shock and awe," that would have been vigorously opposed in normal times. When these changes to Friedmanite free-market dicta are opposed, as they were in Chile, a third shock is implemented. This, according to Klein is a shock that is entirely man-made - the torture and murder of those who would stand in the way of the takeover of the public sector, or, as neo-liberal economists would have it, the bringing forth of a new birth of freedom.
During the "Reagan Revolution," Klein argues, the notion of the `Entrepreneur As Hero' was buffed to a high gloss though the influence of right-wing think tanks whose pronouncements were reported by a cowed and obedient media. A decade later in the dot.com era, entrepreneurs were burnished to blinding sheen when the media fed the world images of swashbuckling venture capitalists who were touted as bringing forth a new millennium through the Internet. Klein maintains that George W. Bush's "public offering" -- the War on Terror - covered slavishly and avidly by the media, has been wildly successful, lining the pockets of investors in the new Homeland Security sector as promises of taxpayer money everlastingly flowing into the coffers of the military-industrial-energy complex have been fulfilled. This is the new "new economy:" the looting of the public sector through the now tried-and-true methods of disaster capitalism.
THE SHOCK DOCTRINE reveals the many wounds that disaster capitalism has inflicted upon the body politic both here in the U.S. and throughout the world over the past 25 years. It is a breathtaking achievement. Highly recommended.
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