ISBN 978-0-141-02453-0. “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein was published by Penguin Books in 2007. A long book weighing in at 558 pages consisting of and Introduction, seven Parts with twenty-one chapters, Conclusion, Notes, Acknowledgements and Index. This book’s reputation precedes it by a mile as does the author’s. We were not reading it until 2012 and were gobsmacked to find that the reputation is well deserved. This book is literally shocking and pummels you into accepting the author’s point of view. Like Noam Chomsky before her Klein has a way of threading her evidence together into an overwhelming tsunami of undeniable truth. Of course she probably goes a little too far in trying to join up the torture manuals of the US Army to the thought patterns of the Chicago School of economics but she is right that the broader cultural influence is there. A nation that believes it is OK to remove the human right from terror suspects will treat nations the same way.
For those of you who have lived in a box for the last ten years let us give you a brief overview of the Shock Doctrine: the world has been dominated by socialism for too long thus everyone is wedded to their free health care systems and subsidised industries. Enter the new “Washington Consensus” of the 1990’s that promised to remake the world in the image of the neo-conservatives. Something they labelled as “Free markets” would be enforced through the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund. There would be no democracy, no choices and no options for Russia, Poland and Central America. They would all tow the line in order to create the perfect Capitalist utopia. Only, here’s the thing; the people of these places didn’t actually WANT this new regime hence they had to be shocked into compliance. Thus this school of thought would know no depths in taking advantage of a shock to enforce their monoculture.
Suffered a hurricane? Villages bulldozed by a tsunami? Market collapsed after communist system failed? All ripe opportunities for reform. And if there is no such disaster available then we can just engineer one by talking up the potential of capital flight until it actually happens. They tried in in Canada. It worked in the Asian Tigers. Maybe your country will be next? And where was the crucible for these ideas? Peru in 1971 (September 11th to be precise) and the coming of General Pinochet. A chapter often visited by Chomsky and Pilger before her but Klein gives it all such a good new spin. It is here that she links up the torture chambers to the economics.
This is a dynamite read and we only regret not reading this book before. In the end there is a happy ending for some. Many of the Nations so destroyed by Corporate Disaster Capitalism have since found their own way again. Many voices inside the Washighton Consensus have aired their doubts about this one-size-fits-all prescription. It simply doesn’t work and the people have turned against it even where their choices are so limited.
This book is awesome and will change your view of the world. You will never feel the same again. Watch the news. Read a newspaper. The entire of Europe since 2008 has become another experiment in Disaster Capitalism. See the results in Greece, in Spain, in Portugal. If we don’t learn from history we are condemned to repeat it. Maybe, THIS time, when we re-invent the world it will be re-localised and community-based. Shocks come and go – we need resilience against the shocks our systems are unable and unwilling to mitigate. If we don’t then we are on the road to serfdom – a bleak Hobbesian vision of the future that serves only a tiny minority. Who would have thought our distorted version of Capitalism would have lead to these massive, planet-shaking failures-of-the-market? Let’s move on.