Changing Everything Changes Nothing

ThisChangesEverything398x425ISBN 978-1846145056. “This Changes Everything – Capitalism vs Climate” by Naomi Klein was published by Allen Lane in 2014. Klein has dazzled us with two of the most significant books every written about world affairs in the last two decades: “No Logo” and “The Shock Doctrine“. By the looks of it this is her third ground-breaking work that – literally – changes everything. Or nothing. There is novelty here. Klein forces us within the first few chapters to see Climate Change from an angle that is largely ignored. She asks ‘what if the Climate Change Deniers are right? What if the climate fix requires the dismantling of Capitalism?’ For some at the margins this may be an obvious truism but it remains less so to me. I argue that such an argument is making the right points with the wrong language. It is too late to save “Capitalism” as caricatured here. Yet it is not too late for free and democratic peoples with a genuinely free market.

My angle on climate change and capitalism has been firm for years: Capitalism can fix Climate IF we accept a global leadership role for Governance. This does not mean “World Government” or any removal of freedoms. Let’s face it the price of petroleum at the pump in the Europe & Japan is many times that in the USA. Yet when a single dime is added to the price in the US they act like it is the end of the American Dream and the commies are taking over. It is all a matter of perspective. Hence the US can live with high carbon prices and their capitalism will not collapse. Indeed, it would thrive. Study after study clearly shows the overall economic wins of adopting a high carbon price and innovating our way out of the crisis with ingenuity and slow cultural change. We’ll save more than we spend in the long run – if only the market could see it. The fact that markets are so highly distorted by the culture of short-termism means our civilisation needs a strong over-arching governance structure to tax pollution and subsidise resilience building. All this can be true AND Capitalism can be that powerhouse of the change. If it chose to be.

Klein suggests that it is too late to save her caricature of “Capitalism”. Reporting from an Heartland Institute Climate-denial conference she reflects upon the ideological beliefs of the cranks assembled there. Although they espouse junk science (in a highly irrational fashion) Klein concluded that their central ideology – that climate action will destroy neoliberal policy – was rational. In essence the climate deniers had good reason to feel threatened. Climate change will roll back the advances made by the elite few, that 0.1%, in gobbling up global capital. All the so-called “freedoms” these right-wing nuts have sanctified will be challenged if we are to tackle man-made global warming. It will require actions that seem to reverse thirty years of neo-liberal consensus on diminishing the state and maximising the market. If man-made climate change is really real it threatens this entire world-view. Hence those who feel they are the losers will fight this reality with counter-factual “science” in the firm belief that their market CANNOT be challenged.

Now if denier-cranks were the only players this would be an understandable response. Of course they represent a tiny minority. Is it healthy for Klein to go-big on the ‘end-of-Capitalism’ message? Afterall, is there not a compromise? It is all in the positioning and framing of the argument. For that fruit-cake minority they can only see the alternative to their world-view as communism. This comes from a deeply polarised world-view where it is either THEIR “way” or horrible dystopia. It forces them to close their eyes to the dystopia they are creating.

“..that is what is behind the abrupt rise in climate change denial among hardcore conservatives: they have come to understand that as soon as they admit that climate change is real, they will lose the central ideological battle of our time…”

In reality we don’t need communism – but we do need alternatives. Yet it is the very concept of an “alternative” system that so frightens the deniers. They cannot imagine that alternative hence they are afraid. It has been natural for me for years to argue that we need only demonstrate post-carbon living to convince people that no communism is required. We may end up with economies that more closely resemble that of Denmark rather than the USA but that isn’t the end of the world. Surely?

Yet for Tea Party tribe even this benign vision of a country-culture-system (such as that operating in Scandinavia) is perceived a alien and malignant. They refuse to understand that it works just fine. Is there any way to make them see? Even if they accept that there will be some higher temperatures and sea level rise they simply retort that they will be so rich that they will turn up the air con and build higher sea walls. But the poor can’t. And the rich are only rich because the poor are poor. The conservatives don’t see it that way. In their arrogance they simply assume that the poor can become rich by following the rich-world’s path of development with extreme free market ideology. However this is to airbrush history. The rich did not become rich through neo-liberal ideology. They got there through slavery, protectionism, imperial expansion and the exhaustion of cheap mineral deposits. Today they wish to “kick away the ladder” from the poor to this development path for they know the truth: we live in a finite world. If you truly were to allow everyone a part of that pie your portion will have to shrink in a world of 7, 8, 9, 10, 11+ billion people. That can’t happen. They know that (even if it is implicitly). So when the poor come knocking on the door the rich will simply build thicker and higher walls to keep them out.

“Those involved feel free to engage in these high-stake gambles because they believe that they and theirs will be protected from the ravages in question, at least for another generation or so.”

The picture thus painted by Klein of conservatives is not a kind one. She really had dredged a few gutters to come up with this dirt. There really are some neo-conservatives out there who see climate change as just another avenue to explore with their brand of disaster capitalism. It could clear the world of nasty poor people leaving the glorious rich to ascend like a phoenix from the ashes. What’s not to like? Maybe Klein is less than helpful:

“..it’s also the case that there is no way to get cuts in emissions steep or rapid enough to avoid those catastrophic scenarios without levels of government intervention that will never be acceptable to right-wing ideologues.”

“Implicit in all of this is a great deal more redistribution, so that more of us can live comfortably within the planet’s capacity.”

This kind of logic bomb that has failed to garner much interest amongst ardent capitalists. They fear that if they act first they will lose market share. Hence they turn to the government to create that level playing field. Then complain that it isn’t tilted towards them. Since conservatives like the idea that they have tamed nature they immediately are drawn towards solutions that are the most profitable to them. Ones that are based upon extraction, centralised, corporate, easily controlled, something linked to the existing status quo of the military-industrial complex. Something like nuclear power and geo-engineering. Something where risk can be socialised and profit can be privatised. No risk of a free market getting in the way of these conservative dreams. Any attempts to introduce smaller, local, democratic and distributed solutions are met with trade sanctions via the mechanism of the World Trade Organisation.

“During good times, it’s easy to deride “big government” and talk about the inevitability of cutbacks. But during disasters, most everyone loses their free market religion and wants to know that their government has their backs.”

…and why is the private sector so unsuited to the great works that are required? They are not profitable enough. This is certainly true from my own experience within non-profit energy groups. Community groups working for the common good are willing to invest capital at much lower rates of return than the big boys in the City of London. Being local and caring is everything.

Klein’s book loosely shakes out into several sections. The narrative thread between them is somewhat nebulous and at times it sounds like a personal travelogue – a bunch of climate-related musings. Once you plough through the sections on how useless billionaire philanthroposts are, how annoying some environmentalist organisation are (at least in the USA) and how equally useless geo-engineering is… we enter by far the longest section of the book (or, at least, it felt like it) which we can call “Blockadia”. This is Klein’s term for the local anti-fossil fuel extraction movements that are (mostly) unconnected to each other but all share the same concern about how the extraction industries will blot human life at a local scale. Whereas before the pumping or oil and gas out of the ground happened in far away places and was relatively easy and “clean” it now is in the stage of trying to suck the carpet dry of beer stains. And those stains are everywhere. This deadly extraction is creeping closer and closer to “people-who-matter” and we really don’t like it. Of course it starts with the people-who-matter least in our post-industrial Western societies: Indigenous Indians, rural villages, quiet backwaters and other such places the Politicians in the big cities consider as unimportant. The trouble is these unimportant people are fighting back. Their once muted cries of agony are building into a crescendo of noise from continent to continent.

This section of “This Changes…” is a book in its own right as Klein lavishes attention on this aspect of the story. She sees great hope for the climate movement in these local struggles. Although most of them started out with quite local concerns those local activists quickly joined the dots between their desire to keep dirty fuels in the ground and the global need to keep carbon out of the atmosphere. This elevates a little bit of NIMBY’ism into a global crusade and lends increasing weight to it. It seems appropriate to pay the local people to keep the fossil fuels in the ground and to preserve the forests that lie on top. If we are genuine in our concerns then we should not be paying them to extract it, we should be paying them to build wind farms and solar parks across their lands where suitable. And that is exactly what so many of these local groups are now campaigning to do. They have stopped just complaining in the hope that someone else will fix the problem. They see themselves as the fix. This does offer great hope. But there is more..

Reading such a critique of capitalism is troubling. The problem is it is so confrontational. We like Klein’s work but she is not one for compromise or accommodation. She is a rejectionist. She has good right to be as her evidence is quite damning and uncomfortable to read. However her glass is always half empty. Her work recently earned the wrath of the likes of Mark Lynas who used her work as an example of an unhelpful extreme that only results in an equal an opposite reaction amongst the neo-cons, techno-philes and “rational optimists”. She may well be having a hand in creating everything she opposes. The trouble is that people only see political partisanship. The left only see the evil-doing of the right. The right only see the evil-doing of the left. These two halves are hard to reconcile. Quite rightly Klein does mention that Climate change is not only a challenge for the right but also for the left. Many a trade union is dependent upon the old industrial order and the extractive industries. Many of their members will lose their jobs in the coming shake down. It really does change everything – but rejecting Capitalism is not the whole picture. Indeed most Communist countries before 1989 had much higher carbon footprints than Western nations. Resource efficiency was NOT their aim. You require free market capitalism if you wish to use resources wisely. But both Communism and Corporate Capitalism tended to centralise resource utilisation into a system of ruthless expansion – one to the state, the other to corporate monopoly. They proved to be two sides of the same coin. Yet the glass remains half full.

At the time I was writing these words the Solar Impulse Two was on its round-the-world flight. This is a manned aeroplane powered only by the sun. It is in the skies due to corporate sponsorship. It has to be one of the most remarkably professionally organised technical challenges of the decade yet it didn’t require massive government intervention. If Klein can cherry-pick then so can everyone else. If I wished to perform an exercise in confirmation bias I can chose my weapons equally as well. The reason why Klein is ultimately “right” is only in the essence that climate change is a market failure. The market alone has done nothing to force down carbon emissions over the last thirty years. Indeed it has given over enormous wealth and power to corporations who have worked against any kind of emissions cuts.

Maybe climate-friendly Capitalism is winning a few battles but it is losing the war unless we-the-people and our elected representatives in Government choose to call it to account. I would argue that Klein is right but her confrontational language is unhelpful. She is sketching a scene of belligerence whereas we need better governance and cooperation. Capitalism is not some lost cause. Capitalism is all we have, it is the water in our goldfish bowl. The fish can get as angry as it likes about the algae it shares the bowl with, but blaming the water will get it nowhere. So what is to be done? Capitalism is a system where people own the means of production, and profit from it without participating in it. It leads to rents – unearned incomes. Left unchecked it will externalise all its costs using the excuse that it is generating wealth. However as that wealth goes under-taxed it is not used to mitigate the costs it externalised upon society as a whole. Hence it will destroy the very basis of the market in which it operates. In essence it will eat itself whole. For capitalism to be sustainable it will need to be reined-in by an effective and efficient State apparatus that maintains governance untainted by the selfish demands of the corporate sector.

This is the challenge – to engineer the system of state governance that can act in the interest of sustaining the market in the very, very long term and maximising wellbeing and welfare of the greatest number of human beings for the greatest period of time. The neo-liberal regime instigated at the end of the 1970s fails to do this hence it will consume itself – but not before it brings society down first. Hence the dilemma. We are locked into a self-destructive spiral. Sooner or later all our pension funds will depend upon a corporate sector who will be hell bent on profiteering in destroying the world you wish to retire into. There has to be some pushback. But to pin the free market to the wall and blame it is to aim at the wrong target. The free market under effective democratic governance is the only proven tool we have that can build a sustainable economy that maximises the spread of wealth amongst the many. Just because it has become corrupted by the few does not mean that this has become untrue. Wistful tales of agrarian communitarianism may sell well to a small sub-set of environmentalists who wish the world would live as they do but this will not be enough. We must sell the dream of a better world and deliver it too.

The problem thus is not the free market or anything called “Capitalism”. The problem is the specific neo-liberal economic paradigm that has captured the hearts and minds of democratic governments the world over. We must capture the market back and reinstate democracy. As Klein rightly points out we cannot simply let the system unravel until we are besieged by multiple climate disasters. The current political economy assumes that we will be so wealthy in the future that there is no need to even save up for that rainy day. That is to assume the future will be like the past. More than that, it assumes any damage can be patched up, and will be cheap. Sticking plasters will not be enough, preventative care is required yet our Governments are unable to raise the taxation to pay for that care for fear of upsetting their sponsors.

(Quoting energy policy expert Gar Lipow) “..providing money to save civilisation and reduce the risk of human extinction is another good reason to bill the rich for their fair share of taxes.”

Although currently their definition of “fair” appears to be “none at all”. So these climate disasters just get engineered into photo-opportunities for career politicians who care nothing about the long term. Short term expediency is all when there are special interests to be pandered to. And those special interests are not mine or yours. We live in a time of austerity. The party is over. Capitalism crashed the economy because it was not sustainable. Hence the coffers are dry. The Treasury will not be writing cheques to cover the damage it has caused through years of under-investment and under-taxation. We never saved for that rainy day. Now we suffer. Or rather the poor must suffer as the rich raise their sea walls and retreat inside their gated communities. Klein point out that there will be no agreed global solutions to climate change until they are perceived to be just. We don’t act because it doesn’t seem fair.

Capitalism, by itself is not going to save us. The State, as it is today, cannot save us. We alone are not enough. All must change. State-capitalism must come to an end. There is no more time left to entertain the clowns of crony-capitalism or cowboy-capitalism. Crimes deserve retribution. It is time for justice, time for true democracy, from the grassroots up. But you are not going to read about this in the media. Since the media is enthralled to, if not owned out right by, the elite, then it is not in its interest to challenge the status quo. We remain stuck. As Klein neatly puts it

“Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and its not the laws of nature.”

Klein introduces such ideas as the Transition movement here within the construct of her “Blockadia” tour but her attitude is ambiguous.

“…if these sorts of demand-side emission reductions are to take place on anything like the scale required, they cannot be left to the lifestyle decisions of earnest urbanites who like going to farmers’ markets on Saturday afternoons and wearing up-cycled clothing. We will need comprehensive policies and programs that make low-carbon choices easy and convenient to everyone.”

Well hear hear to that. Transition is nice in theory when it really is entire communities working together. My personal experience was that it turned into a small minority demonstrating their “lifestyle decisions”. Klein seems more optimistic but her approval for Transition seems more culled from upbeat newspaper articles and her experience in Blockadia than it does in personal experience of Transition. It is to the Occupy movement that Klein rightly turns for inspiration now:

(Quoting Yotam Marom of Occupy Wall Street.) “The fight for the climate isn’t a separate movement, it’s both a challenge and an opportunity for all our movements. We don’t need to become climate activists, we are climate activists. We don’t need a separate climate movement; we need to seize the climate moment.”

Hence Klein rightly concludes that climate change is an opportunity to be exploited.

“The climate moment offers and overarching narrative in which everything from the fight for good jobs to justice for migrants to reparations for historical wrongs like slavery and colonialism can all become part of a grand project of building a nontoxic, shockproof economy before it’s too late.”

“The beauty of these (local renewable energy) models is that when they fail, they fail on a small and manageable scale..”

In short: resilience. However in this shopping list we see the very wish list to Santa that so alienates the right. Klein is not wrong but long wish lists become mountains to be overcome if they do not motivate people to change their very system of democratic governance and economics. Yet we must think outside that box and come together if we are to coexist on a finite planet.

“Yet we are trapped in linear narratives that tell us the opposite: that we can expand infinitely, that there will always be more space to absorb our waste, more resources to fuel our wants, more people to abuse.”

But along the way Klein falls for all the usual leftist tropes – refusing to see the good in anything. Take for example her tirade against offsetting which is so typical of precisely what I am trying to describe here. Carbon offsets are an excellent MARKET solution undermined by corrupt state Capitalism. These two are not the same things at all. The market can be aligned to correct its own short-sighted failings but not in the neo-liberal, hands-off, anti-statist, pro-corporate-monopoly we have today. The Corporate network needs the State in order to manipulate the market to guarantee them profits at the public expense. Since the State is in bed with the Corporations then this corruption of power goes unchecked and the free market is enslaved to serve the greed of a minority at the cost to the majority. Yet this nuance seems lost upon Klein who seems unable to separate free market capitalism from the neo-liberal state capitalism that has corrupted the free market. She throws baby out with the bath water. Yet she is a bright lady hence this is largely a deficiency in her communication of the facts than her understanding of them. This turns a great book into polemic. Her argument becomes thus: the profit motive is always too tempting to resist and profit always trumps climate. This has been tested and tested again in the real world and found to be mostly true. But why does this have to be so? It is not always true yet Klein looks for no evidence of success.

Admittedly that is a hard task. Is it worth trying. Still.. I have to admit there is very little in her polemic to disagree with and Klein makes many an argument that I thoroughly align with. For example why do the techo-philes on the right so love geo-engineering? Geo-engineering requires big government intruding upon the freedoms of every human being on earth. Where are their professed freedom dogmas? The trouble is they pick and chose whose freedoms matter, and whose do not. As Klein rightly then shows, the reason is simple, the fossil fuel incumbency prefers regulation for everyone else but not themselves. Since they are rich enough to buy the truth then this is the reality they are funding. More than this; the rise of alternative energy sources are a threat to the fossil fuel incumbency:

“Solar and wind can make money, sure. But by nature of their decentralisation, they will never supply the kind of concentrated super-profits to which the fossil fuel titans have become all too accustomed.”

The coming revolution is a threat to our elite. In fact, if you want to do some really positive geo-engineering it would be easier to change agricultural mechanisms to sequester carbon into soil:

“Admittedly, such responses break all the free market rules. Then again, so did bailing out the banks and the auto companies.”

But here again a problem. Yes there is an evident injustice here: banks had to be saved by the state because punishing the banks for their failings is unacceptable in corporatocracy. However it is wrong of Klein to conflate this mechanism of corrupt state capitalism with the “free market rules”. Likewise it may well be a little optimistic to expect agriculture to change. Afterall you then have to convince countless millions of farmers to change their practices. the State likes to do simple things, bailing out the banks was simple, changing farming practices is complicated. The State doesn’t know how to do this so it reaches for the mechanisms it understands. This is understandable, yet not an excuse not to try. Afterall the agricultural policies of an entire continent are decided centrally – not only in Europe but also in the USA. Yet most farmers are small farmers elsewhere. Therein lies the complexity. Climate Change involves so many different solutions over-laid upon each other in a lattice of mutual support. The trouble is that our State mechanisms have yet to take this seriously enough. It does not feel threatened enough yet. It is not enough like war yet. More than that, those who are threatened are not the people who matter. Hence we can fix a Bank but not the Artic. Of course this makes no sense to the people on the Carbon frontline in such places as Greece. Who couldn’t empathise with them?

Klein does occasionally become lucid in her description of the problem. Despite her lazy manner of conflating the ‘free market’ with today’s version of ‘capitalism’ she does occasionally whisper the truth. When we ask why our governments don’t fight back against corporate power she writes

“…that has far less to do with any individual trade agreement than it does with the profoundly corrupted state of our political systems.”

Precisely. Hence we may be learning a little more from Owen’s “The Establishment” than we can garner from Klein’s confused analysis. Our democratic system is broken and it is something that the people on the frontlines of Blockadia are all too well aware of. It is only here that Klein seems to awaken to the larger issue. She may well incorrectly conflate ‘free markets’ with ‘capitalism’ in her language, her polemic, yet she does start to join the dots between the climate and the failings of our democracy. We know she is aware of these matters. Maybe “Climate versus Failing Democracy” made less of a catchy book title? It is left for her to quote Venezuelan political scientist Edgardo Lander as saying:

The total failure of climate negotiation serves to highlight the extent to which we now live in a post-democratic society. The interests of financial capital and the oil industry are much more important than the democratic will of people around the world.”

I would contend that this is right but for the wrong reason. I am not all that convinced that there is a will by most of the people to fix this problem. However the people who will have that “will” have yet to be born. They will want us to do more. Yet in our democracy, in our free market, they have yet to find a voice.

“Which is why, in many cases, the movements against extreme energy extraction are becoming more than just battles against specific oil, gas and coal companies..”

Even then Klein doesn’t just leave this as a pro-democracy statement. She states this only in context of the rights of indigenous peoples in North America where she spends most of her “Blockadia” experience. What is more worrisome is that these minorities are simply swamped out of our democracies. They are too few. We have to remember that this is about everybody’s rights. Everybody’s democracy. Myopic empathy for just this or that people will not be a persuasive argument of Klein wishes to move her position forward with people-who-matter. And that is most of the rest of us. The democracy we all need is the one that Klein does recognise at the parochial level: the right to local clean power from renewable sources.

Klein uses soft language to describe local clean power – it will infuriate the likes of Mark Lynas. She is pitches such a clean power revolution in terms of ability to connect us to nature. This seems so irrelevant in comparison to the persuasive arguments in Jeremy Rifkin’s excellent “The Third Industrial Revolution“. Her words may well appeal to leftists and earth mothers the world over but yet again – NOT to the people-who-matter. This is hardly helped further by her lengthy and somewhat gushy polemic about her attempts to conceive a baby. It gave her an interesting perspective and enjoyed reading it – yet it was not a narrative to break this story beyond a narrow subset of stereotypes.

Klein’s arguments do flip and flop, here and there: occasionally nailing the issue precisely whilst at other times swamping it with sentimentality that blinds her to the holistic needs of all in society globally. She fully recognises the need for a price on carbon, who doesn’t? Yet this realisation seems to only come about when she is looking for a way to fund renewable energy on the lands of North American Indians. A carbon price is, of course, needed to plant clean power on all the lands of this earth. Our economy globally must be rebalanced. Still.. I do like Klein’s occasional turn of phrase:

“..today’s climate movement does not have the luxury of simply saying no without simultaneously fighting for a series of transformative yeses – the building blocks for our next economy that can provide clean jobs..”

This was the very reasoning upon which Transition Town Totnes stumbled upon a few years back with its debacle over a Costa Coffee branch opening in the town. Klein goes on to write about how the environmental movement has moved on from the 1960s where they experimented with drop out alternative communities. Today “the most tangible responses” to climate change are those being won at the frontlines of Blockadia by communities who are fighting to keep their local fossil fuels in the ground by planting wind turbines and solar farms.

“In short, dropping out and planting vegetables is not an option for this generation. There can be no more green museums because the fossil fuels runaway train is coming for us one way or another.”

“..linear, one-way relationships of pure extraction are being replaced with systems that are circular and reciprocal.”

Such a movement brings its own shock-doctrine to the debate: communities taking back their energy supplies and democracy from un-accountable & remote governments and corporations. Klein goes on to make an interesting argument about the transition from slavery-based capitalism and the fossil fuel-based capitalism that replaced it. This section of the book reveals how it was the slave-owners who were compensated at the end of slavery, not the slaves. Hence the enormous debt owed to them was only made worse through gross injustice and through the double-whammy of climate change that industrialisation ushered in. When the slavers were compensated for the loss of slaves the money from government went into creating fossil fuel machines to replace the work of the slaves. Capitalism & Imperialism win one way or another, and the poor former-slaves lose, one way or another. Hence we should not be looking to these countries now to pay for their own transition away from fossil-fuelled economic growth. It is a powerful case, but, once again, we doubt it holds much water with today’s Capitalist-Empires and the masters-of-the-universe who finance them.

Klein invites us to choose a path. One way to dystopia – the path we are on. Or the alternative path, the one we must forge by both blocking the business as usual path and by clearing the way to the new route. If that happens she writes “it changes everything“. This is the essence of this book. Simply to boil it down to a battle against capitalism is not the conclusion we should reach. This is US versus the old way of doing things. The people versus business as usual. It is a shift that almost only ever happens top-down in time of war. This time it has to happen bottom-up and be driven by people. Klein looks to the examples of the Civil Rights movements, the American New Deal, the end of Apartheid in South Africa and the end of slavery as the way forward. She wishes to invoke the activist in all of us.

She writes that this passion within us has been quenched by the “dominant ideological project” (as she calls it) within our post-industrial societies: selfishness, instant gratification, individualism and the end of community. It can only be “understood as part of a much broader battle of world-views“. Sadly it sounds so much like “left” versus “right” yet as Jeremy Rifkin taught us, these old ideological battle grounds no longer mean anything. We grip hold of them like they are lifeboats in a storm. They gives us a fixed point of reference for where we belong in our tribe. We must break out of these fixed views about who we are and where we belong. THIS is the challenge this book is really about. It is US versus US. We need to stop choosing a side in a debate where there are no winners. We need to agree or we all lose. Such a shock therapy will need mass popular support and mobilisation. Yet, regardless of how powerful her case Klein still resorts to arguing against climate change as being “morally monstrous”. She snorts in derision at the actions of “bean counters” who argue the abating climate change is cost effective.

I don’t buy this. We either have to make it cost effective or we shall perish trying. Yes there is a moral argument and we are all moral beings. But you cannot measure that well. If you are to overturn old ways of thinking then you need a power of argument in the language of the current paradigm. Otherwise you are howling at the moon. Until we can strip neo-liberal ideology of its power through force of just argument then we cannot replace its economic and political power. Yet even in the last-but-one-page of this book Klein fluffs it by calling it “free market ideology” hence alienating the very people who might, just might, have bought her argument.

Naomi Klein is a powerful writer, a majestic truth teller and this book is another epic from her. It tells tale of a global transition to a brighter future and the battle of the incumbency to keep us on a road the short term profitability (for them) and long term destruction for everyone. Yet this destruction has a cost. Until we find a way to insert that cost into the free market mechanism then we fail. This is not a failure of the free markets. Such markets are as frail as the men and women who create & control them. This is a failure of ideology. Ideologies can be over-turned. Until we learn the right language then we will not persuade that ideology that it is wrong.

changesWe recommend this book for those who wish for insight into the transition that is upon us. It is far from perfect but it is enjoyable. Klein manages to write all the right things but often all in the wrong way. This is as frustrating as it is fascinating. But not a reason not to read this book and learn from it.

Does it change everything? Anything?

I could not resist this final shot of the book on the shelves of a major UK chain book retailer. Somehow the “Half Price” sticker says it all. Just another disposable commodity. The week I photographed this the same retailer listed Owen Jones’ “The Establishment” as number one in its paperback charts. Somehow that seems more appropriate.

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