The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism - by Naomi Klein

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein

In her ground-breaking reporting from Iraq, Naomi Klein exposed how the trauma of invasion was being exploited to remake the country in the interest of foreign corporations. She called it "disaster capitalism." Covering Sri Lanka in the wake of the tsunami, and New Orleans post-Katrina, she witnessed something remarkably similar. People still reeling from catastrophe were being hit again, this time with economic "shock treatment" losing their land and homes to rapid-fire corporate makeovers. The Shock Doctrine retells the story of the most dominant ideology of our time, Milton Friedman's free market economic revolution. In contrast to the popular myth of this movement's peaceful global victory, Klein shows how it has exploited moments of shock and extreme violence in order to implement its economic policies in so many parts of the world from Latin America and Eastern Europe to South Africa, Russia, and Iraq. 

At the core of disaster capitalism is the use of cataclysmic events to advance radical privatization combined with the privatization of the disaster response itself. By capitalizing on crises, created by nature or war, Klein argues that the disaster capitalism complex now exists as a booming new economy, and is the violent culmination of a radical economic project that has been incubating for fifty years.

Book Reviews


The Shock Doctrine - The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is an eye-opening, scathing critique of neo-liberalism and corporatism. Klein extensively examines disaster capitalism complex - a new form of economy built on fear in the wake of a mind-numbing crisis. Based on Nobel laureate Milton Friedman and the Chicago boys' economic theory, disaster capitalism involves the implementation of unpopular, radical free market reforms by exploiting the period of collective shock right after a national crisis during which the population's attention is diverted and their reactive capacities are numbed.

The Chicago boys were a group of Chilean economists prominent around the 1970s and the 1980s, and the majority of them were educated/trained at the Department of Economics of the University of Chicago. Although I am not well acquainted with the theory, from what I have gathered, Friedman advocated developing "alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable" during or immediately after a crisis. Friedmanites stockpile free market ideas and impose them swiftly after a crisis so that they are mostly irreversible.

The first laboratory for Friedman school of economics was Latin America - where military dictatorships were largely in place back in the 70s and 80s. Friedmanites' ideas have mostly aligned with the interests of multinational corporations and over the past fifty years, we have witnessed an upheaval of economic systems all over the world and particularly in global south. The repercussions of disaster capitalism have been overwhelmingly devastating - an ever-widening chasm between the rich and the poor, enormous debt accumulations, enormous private wealth accumulations, irreversible damage to the ecological and environmental system, widespread poverty, destitution and hunger.

I read this book over one month in October during which I also read a large number of reports on pandemic profiteering from all over the world. In India, billionaire and corporatist Mukesh Ambani's net worth grew by Rs 2000 crore per day since March 23, 2020 while nearly 40 crore Indian workers are projected to sink into poverty due to covid-19. Nine Indian billionaires have as much wealth as 50% of the Indian population. Globally, the top 25 billionaires increased their wealth by 255 billion dollars between mid-March and May and 32 of the world's most profitable companies are together expected to make 109 billion dollars more than the average of their profits in the last four years. Also, the 'pandemic profits' of these 32 companies could be redeployed in funding global covid-19 testing needs (estimated at 6 billion dollars) and delivering vaccines to everyone on the planet (estimated at 71 billion dollars.)

Klein's book is extremely important and now more than ever. It is a must-read.

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