David Sarkies's Reviews > The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
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's review
Jan 02, 15

bookshelves: politics
Recommended to David by: A Socialist
Recommended for: Capitalists
Read from February 28 to March 15, 2009 — I own a copy, read count: 1

The tactic to impose free market fundamentalism onto unwilling populations
3 May 2012

I had previously read No Logo after a friend loaned me a copy and I was quite impressed with Klein's take on modern consumer culture and how it destroys our sense of identity when all forms of culture are focused on the acquisition of wealth, however I will go into much deeper detail when I look at No Logo. This book sort of continues on from where No Logo finishes off, however it looks at another aspect of our culture, or should I say our empire, in that where No Logo looks at it internally, The Shock Doctrine looks at it externally.
While it has been a while since I read this book I am still very familiar with Klein's argument and I will have to say that I do tend to agree with what she is discussing here. Basically, while we might look at ourselves internally as an enlightened empire (we are not), we tend to put from our mind the our expansionist tenancies (though empire, by its very nature, is expansionary).
The concept of the Shock Doctrine is the belief that a quick and sudden shock will distract a person (or a population) enough so that an invader can come in and rapidly change everything to the point that the person (or population) are too shocked to do anything about it, and when they finally come out of that shock it is too late to return. Klein seems to suggest that this is a new thing, however I am going to argue that it is not necessarily the case. Granted, in this age of mobile warfare our armies are much more capable of moving into a territory and occupying it than any other time in history, however once again let us not forget how rapidly Alexander the Great conquered the Middle East from Greece and Egypt to Afghanistan and India.
Probably the first modern incidence of the Shock Doctrine would be Hitler's Blitzkrieg. I remember speaking to a Latvian who had come out to Australia. She told me how when she was a little girl in school in Latvia she remembered that one day at school they were all speaking Latvian, however suddenly, the next day, everybody was speaking German. A few years later that would have changed again with everybody speaking Russian. Okay, she was a child, so the political implications of what was happing at the time would have been lost to her, but it is a great example of what Klein means by the Shock Doctrine.
I'll now jump to South American in the 80s, namely Chile. What had happened was that the socialist government Salvatore Allande had been elected to the annoyance of the United States. I have mentioned elsewhere about the Monroe Doctrine - that the Western Hemisphere was within the control and jurisdiction of the United States. Now, there was nothing necessarily wrong with Allende's government, however the American government did not like a socialist government in their sphere of influence (and they had been trying, without success, to remove Cuba's government in the same vein). What I suspect happened (though the propaganda says otherwise) was that they went out of their way to collapse Chile's economy so that the people of Chile would want to get rid of Allende. Then they backed the army in a coup and overnight Allende was murdered in his residence and Augusto Pinocet then took control. He immediately set about strengthening his position by locking up and killing anybody who supported Allende, and then set about reforming Chile to fall into line with the economic system that the United States believed would be the best. Thus the idea was that the Chileans went to sleep with a socialist government and woke up with a far right capitalist government which then opened its doors to American corporate interests.
I'll now jump to Venezuala as an example of where it did not work, and will also look at Iraq and Thailand. A similar situation occurred in Venezuala about twenty years later with the election of Hugo Chavez as president. Now Chavez has gone strange, but that is not surprising since he has been fighting off attacks from the Americans ever since he got elected, which is also not surprising since Chavez not only reformed the labour laws and introduced a social welfare system but he then moved to nationalise a lot of the industries that had been stolen by foreign interests - in particular the oil industry. This sparked huge protests, though one should note that these protests were orchestrated by corporate interests. However Chavez just seemed to hold onto power, so they did their trick of kidnapping him and installing a dictatorship as a so called interim government. However the catch is that these dictatorships start off as interim and continue to be interim. No elections will be held, namely because of the belief that the people really do not understand how best to govern a country.
This idea is that an established and advanced democracy will not shift too far away from the accepted way of doing business, and that is to minimise the amount of government and national businesses and maximise the private sector, even if it involves selling everything to foreign interests. However, even in a advanced democracy, socialist governments get elected, as happened in Australia in 1972. It is still argued that Whitlam went silly and tried to do too much and was on the verge of bankrupting the country. Personally, and pardon the French, but that is little more than right wing capitalist bullshit, as are the attacks against our current prime minister about her links and involvement with the communist party. She may have been back then, but her inability to govern Australia has nothing to do with her communist past, and everything to do with the fact that she faces an incredibly dogmatic and narrow minded opposition that seeks to attack every policy that she attempts to implement as well as an increasingly hostile media.
Back to Venezuala: I have watched a documentary entitled 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised' a couple of times which is about how Chavez was kidnapped and a dictatorship was installed to provide stability to the country (yeah, right, the only reason Venezuala had problems was because Western Corporate interests were inciting right wing capitalist guerillas to cause problems – once again one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter). However, the people of Venezuala, while shocked, were not impressed. I suspect that the corporate bosses neglected the intelligence of the average person, even if they were poor. Even with the police out on the streets suppressing protests (strange that Chavez didn't do that, nor did he make his political opponents mysteriously disappear) the people still rose up and demanded and explanation. The country ground to a halt, and the presidential guard, who were loyal to Chavez, seized the presidential palace and forced Chavez's release, and in turn the dictatorship, within a week, was overthrown. The Shock Doctrine did not work, pure and simple.
It is interesting though how one cannot argue with a right wing capitalist, namely because they simply will not listen to another point of view. I have attempted to argue with one particular stubborn individual for years, and then decided that he was a tool, and pretty much have nothing to do with him anymore (and he his still my Facebook friend, though a quick look at his page shows how much of a Liberal Party foot soldier that he is). The frustrating part is that while you might concede to him, he will never concede to you. By conceding to him you strengthen his argument, but by him refusing any concessions continues to weaken yours. Further, despite logical and intellectual arguments they do not counter anything with logical, but with mocking, ridicule, and then simply raising their voices to a point that you cannot respond. By looking back at this behaviour makes me realise that they actually do not know, and have no foundation, as to why their political stance is correct, and do nothing except use intimidation to attempt to bring you to their side. It shows me that these people are not interested in actually looking for the best for humanity, but rather setting themselves on an idea, usually one that is fuelled by greed, and sticking to it. I remember a Christian conference on Christianity and Government, and surprise, surprise, he did not attend. Obviously he was not interested in an alternative point of view.
I have written quite a lot on this book now, including a gripe against the liberal party foot soldiers. However I have not got to talking about the failures in Iraq or the response to the Boxing Day Tsumani. Iraq was originally supposed to the the Shock Doctrine in action. The belief was that a fast invasion and removal of Sadam would pave the way to turning Iraq into a beacon of capitalism in the Middle East. However it never worked out like that, and I would simply say that it had a lot to do with the reasons behind the US invasion (oil) and the failure of the interim government to act as a proper government. The collapse of Sadam's government resulted in widespread looting that the US military watched and did not intervene, and also with Sadam fleeing before the US forces arrived in Bagdad. The former powers fled to launch a guerrilla war, and other radical elements flocked to Iraq to join in the fighting. The United States, by entering Iraq, literally set up a billboard inviting all American hating people to come and go to town on them, which is what happened for about a period of four years. It was only when Al Qaida decided to attempt to force their fundamentalist brand of Islam onto the population that the Sunni's revolted and joined the Americans. They called it an awakening, but I would hardly say that. The Iraqi sheiks of the Western province did not, and still do not like, the Americans, they just hated Al Qaida's brand of Islam even more.
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