Disaster Capitalism

Wikipedia – The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is a 2007 book by the Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein. In the book, Klein argues that neoliberal free market policies (as advocated by the economist Milton Friedman) have risen to prominence in some developed countries because of a deliberate strategy of “shock therapy“. This centers on the exploitation of national crises to push through controversial policies while citizens are too emotionally and physically distracted by disasters or upheavals to mount an effective resistance. The book suggests that some man-made events, such as the Iraq War, were undertaken with the intention of pushing through such unpopular policies in their wake. Some reviewers criticized the book for making what they described as incorrect claims, while others praised it as a compelling and important work….

In the London Review of Books, Stephen Holmes criticizes The Shock Doctrine as naïve, and opines that it conflates “‘free market orthodoxy’ with predatory corporate behaviour.”[16] John Willman of the Financial Times describes it as “a deeply flawed work that blends together disparate phenomena to create a beguiling – but ultimately dishonest– argument.”[17] Tom Redburn in the New York Times states that “what she is most blind to is the necessary role of entrepreneurial capitalism in overcoming the inherent tendency of any established social system to lapse into stagnation”.[18]

Jonathan Chait wrote in The New Republic that Klein “pays shockingly (but, given her premises, unsurprisingly) little attention to right-wing ideas. She recognizes that neoconservatism sits at the heart of the Iraq war project, but she does not seem to know what neoconservatism is; and she makes no effort to find out.”[19] Robert Cole from The Times said, “Klein derides the ‘disaster capitalism complex’ and the profits and privatisations that go with it but she does not supply a cogently argued critique of free market principles, and without this The Shock Doctrine descends into a muddle of stories that are often worrying, sometimes interesting, and occasionally bizarre.”[20]

Economist Tyler Cowen, who called Klein’s rhetoric “ridiculous” and the book a “true economics disaster”, says that the book contains “a series of fabricated claims, such as the suggestion that Margaret Thatcher created the Falkland Islands crisis to crush the unions and foist unfettered capitalism upon an unwilling British public.”[21]

Fred Kaplan said that Naomi Klein’s depiction of the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis as a “clash between Chicago-style capitalists and honorable, fledgling democrats” is ludicrous.

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