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The Shock Doctrine

20 Sep 2018

The Shock Doctrine is a book detailing how capitalism has been spread throughout the world on the back of disaster and violence. I was raised and then later trained economically more or less in the Chicago school which is the particular brand of capitalist ideology that Naomi Klein denounces in this book. She clearly writes with a particular perspective on different events and therefore presents certain facts intermixed with her interpretation of their significance. While I don't think she is fundamentally correct on everything, it is eye opening to see what amounts to the completely opposite viewpoint to much of my upbringing.

I don't have the time to really detail my thoughts on this at the moment, but the basic idea that she posits about what the Chicago school wants can be more or less summarized with:

Like the religious fundamentalist who has a grudging respect for fundamentalists of other faiths and for avowed atheists but disdains the casual believer, the Chicagoans declared war on these mix-and-match economists. What they wanted was not a revolution exactly but a capitalist Reformation: a return to uncontaminated capitalism.

The book spends a lot of time bouncing around this metaphor of shock, from literal shock therapy in mental institutions which later became the playbook for CIA interrogation, to economic shock via IMF demands. I enjoyed the following quote which feels timely:

Memory, both individual and collective, turns out to be the greatest shock absorber of all.

The book was written in the early 2000s and therefore I have the benefit of hindsight to view some of the claims she makes. She isn't too far off about some things, but her analysis of South Africa does not really capture the reality of corruption being a primary cause of the post Apartheid government's issues rather than her claim that is mainly due to technocratic manipulation.

I highly recommend this book, especially to someone who finds themselves thinking that the economic issues of the world could be solved if we would have more pure capitalism. You often here Communism and Socialism being put forth as good in theory but any failings in practice being due to not being implemented purely enough. The same is often said of capitalism on the other side of the fence. Read this book to understand that, well your beliefs might not be completely true.


Category: book