386 of 403 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profiting From Disaster
Ideology aside, I consider this to be one of the most important books of our time. The reason I started off the way I did is that many people will react to Naomi Klein's book based on their political leanings. In fact, before starting this book, I was inclined to disagree with her premise -that Chicago School economics can be directly tied to oppressive regimes in many...
Published on 25 May 2008 by Lleu Christopher
128 of 194 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A twisted and frequently inchoate rant
Seven years ago, while still a university student, the must read book at my alma mater was Naomi Klein's `No Logo.' A probing and insightful look into the way that corporations were taking over our high streets and lives, it was at once pertinent and relevant. I had only lived in London for a couple of years, and already witnessed how its high streets were transmogrifying...
Published on 9 May 2008 by J A C Corbett
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386 of 403 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profiting From Disaster,
This review is from: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Paperback)Ideology aside, I consider this to be one of the most important books of our time. The reason I started off the way I did is that many people will react to Naomi Klein's book based on their political leanings. In fact, before starting this book, I was inclined to disagree with her premise -that Chicago School economics can be directly tied to oppressive regimes in many parts of the world. This book, however, thoroughly proves this disconcerting truth. The Shock Doctrine is also a brilliant expose and an elegant model which enables us to understand modern history in a new way.
I had originally seen a short video online that summarized the ideas of this book, and my first reaction (again, before reading the book) was that this must be a typical leftist rant, making an abstruse analogy between an economic system with which the author disagrees and real life practices like torture and shock treatment. As someone who was raised, or at least self-raised as basically a libertarian, I did not want to believe Klein's argument. In fact, the only reason I bothered to read the book is that I liked her earlier book, No Logo so much. She is one of the few writers on political and economic subjects whom I actually enjoy reading. Her style is so lucid that, even if I don't agree with some of her ideas, I understand where she is coming from and enjoy following her reasoning.
Alas, there is nothing abstract, symbolic or abstruse about The Shock Doctrine. Nor is it any kind of conspiracy theory, as one reviewer oddly remarked. Everything in this book is well documented, and most of the references are anything but obscure. You can find almost everything that is written about here by going back over newspapers of the last few decades. The fact is, recent oppressive regimes in South America, Eastern Europe and Asia built their systems around the ideas of Milton Friedman and Chicago School economics. This is not a theory or an accusation, but a matter of public record. The only thing that we can dispute and speculate over is whether or not Milton Friedman (and his Chicago School disciples) really approved of the actions of tyrants like Pinochet. In the end, does this really matter?
Again, when I first saw the video based on this book, I was skeptical, especially when I watched graphic footage of people being tortured and then told that there is a nearly perfect analogy between the literal shocking of political prisoners and the economic "shock therapy" inflicted on many nations. The reason this book overcame my skepticism is that these practices really were carried out in a symmetrical manner. That is, individuals were being tortured (by people who studied manuals on shock therapy, devised by a real life "mad doctor" named Ewen Cameron) at the same time their governments were conspiring with Chicago School luminaries.
Advocates of free market economics have always said that we must separate economic and political freedom. For example, we can be horrified by the actions of a Pinochet and yet admire the "economic freedom" that exists under such a regime.
I think one of the most impressive achievements of The Shock Doctrine is the way it discredits this widely held assumption. Even assuming that Chicago School ideas represent the ultimate in economic freedom, is it right, even by libertarian standards, to force such freedom on people who don't want it? The idea of forcing people to be free is an oxymoron, and yet this seems to be the mentality of the U.S. government, World Bank and other supposed defenders of freedom when implementing their strategies in the Third World.
Hardcore libertarians will argue that nothing in this book is a refutation of free market capitalism because none of the examples given are true examples of pure laissez faire capitalism. As someone who would have said this myself twenty years ago, I would now simply ask, what difference does it make? Similar arguments are made by dogmatic Marxists concerning the atrocities of Mao and Stalin (they weren't "really" communists). If we are shown, time after time, that a given ideology is used as a justification for implementing policies that include torture, the murder of dissidents and wide-scale corruption, it may be time to rethink that ideology.
Naomi Klein is an advocate of a "Third Way" between capitalism and communism. Examples of this include the relatively free but socialistic Scandinavian nations. Personally, I don't find these rather bureaucratic societies very attractive, being something of a hardcore anarcho-capitalist in my heart. Yet if people genuinely want a society that looks like modern day Sweden or Venezuela, do I (or the U.S. government) have the right to say they can't have it?
The Shock Doctrine illustrates something that goes beyond politics and ideology. I don't really believe that the people in government, industry and the World Bank, who are responsible for many of the atrocities Klein documents, are actually believers in Chicago School economics, laissez faire or any other system. What they want is wealth and power, and they use ideology as a justification for their actions.
If we put aside the political theory and look at the actions and strategies this book catalogs, we see a clear pattern. These people, as Klein documents, use war, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and the like as opportunities to exploit the masses. This is not a mere hypothesis, for there are ample quotes in the book where this doctrine is openly admitted by those who carry it out. Klein stops short of conspiracy theory, the kind that claims that catastrophic events (such as 9/11 and even natural disasters) were orchestrated by those who later exploited them. Whether Klein's more moderate position or the conspiratorial one is closer to the truth is ultimately of secondary importance. The fact is, those at the top of the power structure use disasters as opportunities to increase their wealth and power.
The beauty of this book is that it presents a coherent picture of American (and allied nations) foreign policy and, to some extent, domestic policy -- the Patriot Act and the Katrina tragedy are also described -- that clearly explains the modus operandi of the power elite. It doesn't matter what kind of political system you think is ideal. This is what is really happening. The book concludes on an upbeat note, as hard to believe as that might seem. There is evidence that as people wise up to the shock doctrine strategy, it will become less effective. Hopefully, many people will read this book and the process will be accelerated.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real road to serfdom,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Paperback)Naomi Klein's basic thesis is this:- that the right wing conflation between (A) deregulated, free-market, laissez-faire capitalism (what in this country we would refer to as 'Thatcherism') with (B) basic human freedom is a myth, a dangerous myth.
Naomi Klein wrote this book in 2007 at the dusk of the Bush II era and leads the reader through an alternative version of history which traces the darkly illiberal policies of the Bush II Whitehouse back to Pinochet's Chile in 1973. The thread that weaves together Klein's over-arching narrative is the idea that proponents of what she refers to as 'Chicago School economics' (the ideas of Milton Friedman as articulated in 'Capitalism and Freedom' and which would later form the ideological backbone of Thatcherism, Reagonomics and Neo-Conservatism) have, whilst proclaiming the theoretical indivisability between free markets and free peoples, in actual practice, required more authoritarian governments to implement 'free-market' policies in foreign soil.
Klein' book points to the importance in politics of ideas and of ideology and highlights that the most salient feature of what is often referred to as free-market/laissez-faire capitalism in the last forty years, as it has sought to destroy the post-war consensus, has been the frequency with which it has rode on the back of disasters or 'shocks' so as to ruthlessly implement its basic tenets - whether that be in Pinochet's Chile in the 1970s, Yeltsin's Russia of the 1990s or in Iraq in the Noughties - against the wishes of the common man or woman and through undemocratic means. Thereby exposing as a lie the basic premise of 'free markets' as extolled as an article of faith by its proponents that it is the only truly democratic form of political economy.
Klein argues forcefully that what the Bush II whitehouse delivered, in its creation of vast new markets for private enterprise - whether that be through (1) the dissolution of basic individual liberties at home via the creation of a surveillance state in the form of 'homeland security' or through (2) large contracts awarded to the likes of Blackwater and Haliburton in the 'reconstruction' of a sovereign country invaded on false pretences - was not an aberration in the otherwise untainted history of free-market ideology but very much a continuation. 'The Shock Doctrine' is an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the history of the last forty years. It is well-written, forcefully argued and will make you think.
100 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fragile democracy,
This review is from: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Paperback)This book has shocked me thoroughly. In Denmark, we currently have a liberal government slowly dismantling our welfare system, which some would say is about high time since we have the highest taxes in the world. But reading the Shock Doctrine I have become a staunch believer in a social democratic society. I will happily pay my high taxes if I can trust my government is spending them right. The alternative is not an option for me. A happy society is one where all people have true opportunities, where very few are poor, and where those who are not able to fend for themselves are helped to lead a decent life by the society.
What is so ironic about Naomi Klein's revelations is the fact that the US shout out to anyone who cares to listen that they are defending democracy and want to spread it to the Middle East and elesewhere. Yeah sure. What hypocracy! The Shock Doctrine reminds us that the US have been behind the dismantling of some 12 democracies around the world for pure economic and geopolitical self-interest. My estimate is that most of those countries would today have been well functioning, prosperous democracies instead of poor developing nations traumatized by former cruel dictatorships installed by the US.
I don't know about you Americans, but I'm sure ready for CHANGE :O)
86 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally mindblowing,
This review is from: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Paperback)This is my first ever review on Amazon. No book has ever moved me to want to take action before like The Shock Dcotrine. Ok, so writing an Amazon review isn't going to change the world but getting as many people as possible to read this book is a step in the right direction.
A friend who recommended the book to me said it was powerful, but I wasn't prepared for just how powerful. Page after page I felt real physical rage and disbelief at how these horrific and world changing events have been happening for decades (and continue to happen) and yet have remained so under the radar of most of us.
Describing the contents of the book has been done very eloquently in other reviews, so I won't repeat that here. But I will just say PLEASE, whatever your political colour, however sceptical you are, PLEASE read this book, it will change how you view the world.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why things are the way they are...,
This review is from: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Paperback)Naomi Klein has written an essential book that examines the ideological origins, and the methods of implementation, of the ideas which have been central to the global economic transformation of the last 40 years, which is often associated with terms such as "globalization," "free trade," and "unfettered free market capitalism." It is an immense and complex subject, and whose eyes do not begin to glaze over when the subject of GATT, or WTO talks is raised, but Klein has done a most impressive job of offering the reader an erudite and lucid exposition of this transformation. She has meticulously researched the subject, and has coupled that with interviews of some key actors in the transformational events. The book is accompanied by 75 pages of footnotes, a few of which I verified for accuracy.
Klein starts her work in an unlikely place: the basement of the Allan Memorial Institute at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. It was there in the 1950's that Dr. Ewen Cameron, an American who was one time was president of the American Psychiatric Association, conducted experiments which were eventually funded by the CIA, on mentally-ill, and not so mentally-ill patients. Klein's interview with one of the survivors of Cameron's experiments was truly horrifying. Purportedly the CIA was funding such experiments "for a good cause," that is, to help captured American soldiers survive "brainwashing," which were conducted during the Korean War. In actuality, the CIA was to adopt many of the techniques that Cameron pioneered in its efforts to maintain "friendly" regimes throughout what was once called the Third World. The pictures of prisoners at Gitmo, with ear-mufflers and thick gloves, all in an effort to reduce sensory stimulus, are a direct result of Cameron's work. Electroshock therapy was also a central Cameron technique, and Klein uses an incisive epigraph from Ernest Hemingway, shortly before his suicide: "Well, what is the sense of ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my capital, and putting me out of business? It was a brilliant cure but we lost the patient." Yes, the critical point is that none of this worked, despite all the pain inflicted.
The central theme of the book is about what Klein calls "the other doctor shock." She is referring to Milton Friedman, and the school of economic thought known as the Chicago school (since Friedman taught at the University of Chicago), with its three part formula of: deregulation, privatization and cutbacks. He has been one of the stellar and most successful proponents of the now all too widely accepted "government is bad; free markets are the best of all possible worlds" thesis. And he doesn't believe in gradual transformation; it must be traumatic in order to overcome "political" obstacles, which is shorthand for the will of the vast majority of the people, who will be harmed by his policies. Klein does not particularly make this point, but I kept thinking, is not what she is describing the flip side of Communism? A rigid ideology, promoted by devoted and unquestioning acolytes who deem deviation from the "party line" heresy, requiring a revolution to obtain its objectives, and which involves much short-term immediate pain coupled with a promise of a better life in the hazy future.
Klein devotes chapter after chapter in a veritable "tour-de-force" of the implementation of the Chicago school's economic policies. Each chapter is a brilliant summation of the transformational events in a number of countries throughout the world. Friedman's first chance to implement his "clean slate" policies was Chile, when the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, and imposed General Pinochet's reign of terror on the country in 1973. For the Chicago school, the implementation of its policies must be made through non-democratic means, and usually accompanied by violence; a point Klein makes again and again. As Thomas Frank says in his What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, it is the French revolution in reverse, with economic wealth becoming concentrated, the few reaping vast rewards, the vast majority losing. That objective is not accomplished democratically. Klein goes on to detail the implementation of these polices in the other countries of what she calls the "southern cone," that is, Argentina, Uruguay, and Bolivia. She again selects a wonderful epigraph by Eduardo Galeano: "People were in prison so that prices could be free."
In the `80's, a partial implementation of Friedman's policies occurred in both the United States and Britain, under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher's policies were so unpopular with the electorate that she was sure to lose the election, but the "foreign adventure," the last gasp of empire jingoism, the Falklands War bailed her out. The author says that next step in the global transformation occurred with: "the colonization of the World Bank and the IMF by the Chicago School was a largely unspoken process, but it became official in 1989 when John Williamson unveiled what he called `the Washington Consensus'". The policies were thereby exported to Poland, Russia, and South Africa, each receiving its own chapter. The betrayal of the stated goals of the African National Congress, and the acceptance of the previous debt by the black-majority government, was particularly heart-breaking. The standard technique is to claim that the economic policies are not political, but technically and scientifically objective. Natural disasters, such as Katrina in New Orleans, and the tsunami in Sri Lanka, are likewise viewed as `opportunities' to "shock" the populace into accepting Chicago School doctrines, such as school privatization and fancy beach resorts. Klein also covers the economic "homeland security bubble" in the States, and does a brilliant job describing how these same policies were implemented in Iraq, a country with intermittent electric and water supplies, but a 15% flat tax rate was implemented, and constitutional changes were made so that it would be hard to reverse the "free market" policies, including selling off their oil reserves. The last chapter is devoted to the increasing resistance developing to such policies. Her book was completed prior to the economic melt-down in the United States in 2008, so, no doubt, it is greater now, but the political implementation of that discontent is still held in abeyance.
Klein's book has garnered numerous 1-star reviews; I've read them all, and could find very little of merit. Mainly they were the standard attacks from true-believer acolytes of the "magic" of the markets, despite the evidence, in particular of the last two years. Klein has written a remarkable, lucid book on why we are in the fix we are: Definitely 6-stars.
(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on November 15, 2010)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just a short review,
This review is from: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Paperback)I was really surprised by the clarity, the straightforwardness and the passion of this book. Despite any controversies, it is a must read (and think upon) for every politically concerned person, within and without US.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shock & Awe before Iraq,
This review is from: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Paperback)Five years subscribing to The Economist had persuaded me Free Markets were to everyone's benefit in the long run. The Shock Doctrine - how free market (Chicago) capitalism was imposed on developing economies, "disappearing" opponents, made me think again. Nothing seems off-limits: what do we do when they start trading babies? The last chapter is encouraging: societies get wise to shock tactics. Watch the popular socialism in S. America for development of the story.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant,
This review is from: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Paperback)there are a lot of long reviews here so I am going to opt for a different theme with my review.
I feel this book is an exceptional read and I would absolutely recommend everyone read it, not from a political or ideologically standpoint but from an intellectually one. 10 out 10 for me.
deeply informative, thought provoking and well written.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Machiavelian Monetarists Eat Earths Existence / Sci Fi For Real!,
This review is from: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Paperback)An astonishing and factual account of
the evolution of a terrifying new economic model,
that of Milton Friedman's Chicago School NeoConservative Free market policies,
where endless deregulation and privatization generates massive growth for private business, at a cost often of life and liberty to the less financially well endowed.
Analyzing in an objective manner the methods employed and their achievements over more than 30 years, the economists practice could be summarized in the Orwellian doublethinkist views that War is Peace, Death Is Life & Greed is the Greatest Good.
Should possibly be compulsory reading for anyone who wants to live.
Revealing how Milton Friedman's Monetarist Economic theories of NeoLiberalism / NeoConservatism,
echoing the m.o. of Elctro Shock Therapy in its early years which sought to erase the ailing personality all together and then impose a new one on the blank slate,
has similarly sought initially to exploit and latterly to bring about and then exploit conditions of economic disaster in various nations.
Acting at the point similar to that when an individual looses all comprehension of who they are or what they should do,
the practitioners of Economic Shock Doctrine strike at the very moment when a nation is most disoriented and in need of assistance or support.
This is apparently the best time in response to their plea for help from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank (originally Humane and Humanitarian bodies protecting world society from the rise of any destructive economic forces)for financial aid to repair disaster damage, to provide such aid with strict conditions that the countries who asked will open their markets, deregulate their economies, sell of their assets and surrender their present and long term futures to the global stock-markets.
Should they meet resistance to this wholesale colonial capitalization and economic genocide of formerly independent nation states,
This is the time to send in the Army, initially the national army but later as privatization at home (USA) began to pick up speed, an outsourced privatized army from mercenaries around the world was employed....
Stripping states of their democratically elected powers and their public utilities which were formerly held and employed on behalf of the nations people to further their economic independence and national standards of living, the ceaseless, heartless rise of the Machiavellian Monetarists devastatingly portrays the soulless and insatiable consequences of applying materialist economic values to humanist and environmental concerns.
Whilst the book does conclude with some hopeful outlooks as the Latin Americas now recover from their abuse under the economic Shock Therapy doctrines and reject any further involvement with the IMF, WB or similar, practicing an almost Scandinavian sort of Democratic Socialism or Third Way, as they helpfully share and supportively trade their resources with their neighbors outside and independent of the global stock market.
I would also recommended that whilst somewhat out of date in its details and simpler in its portrayal, in its general arguments Schumachers Small Is Beautiful; Economics as if People Mattered is an excellent alternative approach to the economics of a world worth living in.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where did it all go wrong?,
This review is from: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Paperback)This has to be the best non-fiction (or fiction for that matter) book that I've read this year. Depressing, but it tells you why so much of history turned out the way it did, over the last 60 years. You always knew that there were some very heartless people deciding how society should be set up - and this book tells you just how bad it has all become.
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The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein (Paperback - 1 May 2008)