The Shock Doctrine

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

Naomi Klein is one of the most important investigative journalists of our time, right up there with Seymour Hirsch and I.F. Stone. Her first book,No Logo: Taking Aim At the Brand Bullies, was an international bestseller. This was followed by the muckraking articles she wrote for The Nation, The Guardian and Rolling Stone, in whose pages she recently published an expose of China's high-tech police state, which she calls "market Stalinism" based on American crime-control technology ("soon to be put into practice here in this country").

Now Picador has published THE SHOCK DOCTRINE--THE RISE OF DISASTER CAPITALISM, a book which explodes the myth that the global free market is a vehicle for democracy and fair trade (as first espoused by economist Milton Friedman and his "Chicago University boys"). Klein shows that when Friedman's "shock therapy" ideas were implemented in Chile by Gen. Pinochet--it amounted to stripping away the welfare state to achieve a capitalist utopia--the country's economy eventually crashed and debt exploded, with resulting hyperinflation and soaring unemployment.

The same shock therapy has been employed in many other parts of the world, Klein shows--namely our "shock and awe" policies in Iraq, the follow-up to the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka and Thailand, where "foreign investors and international lenders teamed up to use the atmosphere of panic to hand over the entire beautiful coastline to entrepeneurs who quickly built large resorts." The same story was repeated in New Orleans, post-Katrina, and in Burma, post-cyclone.

"Neo-liberalism belongs to the closed, fundamentalist doctrines that cannot co-exist with other belief systems," Klein charges. "The world as it is must be erased to make way for their purist invention. Rooted in biblical fantasies of great floods and fires, it is a logic that leads ineluctably towards violence."