As I said that I might, I finished reading “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” by Naomi Klein. My earlier complaints about the intellectual underpinnings and their rise in the United Kingdom and the United States is somewhat moot. Klein is able to give a convincing narrative, such as earlier economic woes or perceived incompetence, so democracies were willing to give neo-liberals a crack at power. However, in times of peace, those leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had problems implementing their unpopular agendas. It took disaster manufacture, such as the Falklands War or the invasion of Grenada to actually short-circuit the democratic processes to push through the neo-liberal reforms.
At the center of the story is Milton Friedman, the doctor of neo-liberal economic reforms. Friedman must be understood as a utopianist. He was a free market fundamentalist, and a counter-revolutionary to Keynesian economics. His goal was to remake the world’s economy into a capitalist utopia, where proper adjustments could be made scientifically and mechanically without fear of so-called economic distortions. In this respect, he did not believe that economic policies should be under the control of governments answerable to the people. They would only manage to introduce popular distortions that were harmful to the functioning of the economy. Precisely because neo-liberal reforms are so unpopular, Friedman and other neo-liberals found it easier institute policies outside of democratic controls, the shock doctrine explores how the implementation of neo-liberal economic reforms has evolved from Chile to Iraq and Katrina.
The shock doctrine can be thought of as a three step process:
- Economic Reforms
- Fighting Popular Resistance
One trend that Klein notes is the rise of something that she calls the “disaster capitalism complex,” where companies have a vested interest and able to profit from every step of the process, from weapons manufacture, reconstruction, security, torture and interrogation, to health care for the wounded.
As neo-liberalism has evolved in its design and implementation, and so has the response. Shock is a period of disorientation. It is where unexpected information comes in too fast to deal thus overwhelming the system’s ability to respond. However, shock is only temporary, and it can be avoided if one is aware of what is coming. Klein’s book is attempt to ground people and societies, so we all become shock resistant. I highly recommend reading it.
Below is Klein discussing her book with Keith Olbermann.