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The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

Overdue Awakening.

Absolutely brillant. It will reinforce what what many of us only suspected. For too long we have regarded the new prosperity of the few in the developing world as evidence of the success of the free market forgetting the majority whose living standards have often been d...
Absolutely brillant. It will reinforce what what many of us only suspected. For too long we have regarded the new prosperity of the few in the developing world as evidence of the success of the free market forgetting the majority whose living standards have often been diminished. The true effects of the trickle down theory are laid bare. Eric

posted by Anonymous on November 4, 2007

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Most Helpful Critical Review

6 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

Shockingly Bad

This may well be the worst piece of economic 'analysis' I've ever read. Klein's argument consists of not much more than a single, bizarre, analogy: as electroshock therapy was used to 'reform' individuals' thought processes, so too was economic crisis and political dic...
This may well be the worst piece of economic 'analysis' I've ever read. Klein's argument consists of not much more than a single, bizarre, analogy: as electroshock therapy was used to 'reform' individuals' thought processes, so too was economic crisis and political dictatorship used to reform economic policy. According to Klein's paranoid vision, policies to eliminate runaway inflation--commonly called 'shock policy'--literally require something like electroshock therapy to the body politic as a precursor. Klein argues, illogically, that since some--but far from all--rightist dictatorships instituted free-market reforms after seizing power, and since those regimes used electroshock torture to consolidate power, then they must have seized power and used electroshock torture for the sole purpose of instituting free-market reforms. This is the logical fallacy 'post hoc ergo propter hoc,' a favorite of conspiracy theorists everywhere. It will surprise no one familiar with this style of argument that the CIA figures prominently in Klein's vigorous efforts to connect the dots leading from 1950s pyschiatric labs to 1970s Santiago by way of 1960s classrooms at the University of Chicago. Given her apparent sympathy for Marxist regimes, it is surprising that Klein fails to apply the most basic feature of Marxist analysis--cui bono? That is, she spends 400+ pages ranting about Milton Friedman's alleged agenda to impose his views on the world by means of political shocks, but she devotes not a single sentence to explaining just why it was in his interest to do so. The simple alternative explanation is that, just as he wrote during the entirety of his professional life, Friedman sincerely believed that free markets were essential to free societies. Klein completely misrepresents the meaning of his observation that fundamental reforms come about most commonly during times of crisis--as in the case of Klein's beloved New Deal. She--willfully or stupidly--misinterprets a historical observation as a policy prescription. Friedman never, anywhere, advocated that a crisis be precipitated in order to induce economic reforms. For Klein to imply anything other than this is, as far as I'm concerned, defamation purely and simply. This book would be laughable if it weren't viewed by so many uninformed people as a serious piece of scholarship.

posted by Anonymous on November 21, 2007

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2007

    Overdue Awakening.

    Absolutely brillant. It will reinforce what what many of us only suspected. For too long we have regarded the new prosperity of the few in the developing world as evidence of the success of the free market forgetting the majority whose living standards have often been diminished. The true effects of the trickle down theory are laid bare. Eric

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2007

    An Ugly Reflection in the Mirror

    Klein uses historical research, as well as anecdotal descriptions and interviews, to bolster her thesis that America's often hidden foreign policy has systematically supported brutal, undemocratic dictatorships and carefully used its clout with the IMF and the World Bank to extort US-friendly policy from other nations, even when it is not in the best interests of those nations' populations. For those of us who would like to be proud of our country, it's an ugly reflection in the mirror. For those Americans who can't understand why so many around the world hate us, it's a wake-up call.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2008

    Best book I've read in years

    For decades, we've been baraged with the idea that the free market is a force of nature, as incontestable as the law of gravity, and that it somehow represents the natural extension of free democratic societies. We've heard this so often, we've all but ceased to question it, yet the history of unfettered free market policies fails to support empirically their proponents' idealized predictions. This is the blindfold that Naomi Klein's work seeks to lift from our eyes. Ms. Klein chronicles the repeated efforts of free market advocates to impose radical free market policies around the world and observes that, in stark contrast to the joyous choruses of freedom on the march offered by the architects of such policies, the reality has been far less promising. In every instance, 'free' market policies have been forced upon populations which did not desire them, and with the uniform and predictable consequence of making a tiny minority richer than kings, at the expense of impoverishing the majority of the population. Critics fault the quality of Ms. Klein's eocnomic analysis, which I find telling. Ms. Klein is not an economist, nor does she pretend to be. Rather, she is a journalist who is chronicling events, none of which, interesting enough, do her critics wish to discuss. I also am not an economist and I do not presume to speculate whether Milton Friedman and his disciples are as sinister as Ms. Klein suggests, but it matters little to me what their intentions may or may not have been: what does matter is that their experiments in radical free market policies have produced catastrophic human costs. It is therefore far from having reached the level of an established truism that the 'free market' represents some benevolent force of nature and thus the only sensible goal of every policy maker. Quite the opposite: the costly and bloody track record of such policies demands a serious evaluation of the theory's basic assumptions. Yet, as Ms. Klein points out, proponents of radical free market economics share with other fundamentalists a faith in their ideology which denies any admission of error. Like religious fundamentalists, they have created a logical closed loop, whereby any evidence conflicting with their world view, no matter how overwhelming, is invariably dismissed as the fault of external influences and tamperings with the idealized workings of the free market as they understand it. I find it ironic that these economists like to think of themselves as scientists describing a natural phenomenon, when the first rule of the scientist is to find hypotheses which can explain what they empirically observe, whereas the first rule of the free market economists seems to be to begin with a hypothesis, and then try to force reality to conform to it, no matter how poor a fit it may be. That Dr. Friedman and his followers are unable or unwilling to acknowledge the reality of their misguided hypotheses is regretable. If the rest of us are to have any hope of avoiding repetitions of the same mistakes and failures to which those flawed ideas have led us, it is crucial that we begin to look rather more critically at what fruit those policies have in fact born. Ms. Klein's work is an important first step in that direction.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2008

    The most important book on the bookshelf

    This gripping, fast-paced book is probably the most important book anyone can read right now. It explains why Washington will stay the course no matter what and fly our democracy straight into a cliff. They've done it for many other countries - I had no idea 'economics' was such a bloodthirsty subject. Just read the introduction - you won't be able to put this book down even if you can barely balance a checkbook.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2008

    A reviewer

    This is an exceptionally researched book that for the most part provides a great depth of information about the history of 'shock treatment' going back to the 1950's and detailing through today. The beginning of the book is quite disturbing reading about various torture treatments performed in the 50's and carried on today. Kline does a great job of exposing the governments of the world for changing laws to benefit the few, while taking advantage of the poor and average joes. Shock Doctrine makes you disgusted about the things that went on and continue to go on. A must read.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2007

    Should be required reading.

    Naomi Klein has done an outstanding job researching, documenting, and writing the unbelievable history of what she has termed 'The Shock Doctrine'. Much of what she reveals comes from Senate investigations and other public documents - and yet it is one of the most underreported stories of our time. The United States CIA has worked with proponents of Milt Freidman's free market theory to overthrow democratically elected leaders, and then to install brutal dictators. These leaders then followed the advice of certain US-trained economists,and allowed global corporations to come in and develop their oil and other natural resources. It is a tale where free market only means that the profits went to the giant corporations leaving the leaders of these countries rich, the countries themselves despoiled, and the people impoverished and oppressed.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    Everyone Should Read This Book

    This is a great book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2008

    Useful study of capitalism today

    Naomi Klein, a Canadian journalist, has followed No Logo with this useful book on key aspects of capitalism today. Capital sees disasters ¿ acts of terrorism, hurricanes in Central America and New Orleans, the tsunami in South Asia - as market opportunities for `for-profit¿ relief and reconstruction. Since 2003, terrorist attacks have multiplied sevenfold, but Wall Street now soars with each new attack, and the US `security industry¿ is worth $200 billion. Yet the relief and rebuilding are just covers for profit-making: capital creates free-fire economic zones marked by privatisation and pillage. Even the military is privatised, promising limitless war: in Iraq the US and British governments are hiring more mercenaries than soldiers. Klein draws an analogy between the `shock doctrine¿ of the CIA¿s torture techniques aimed at remaking human minds and Milton Friedman¿s free market economics forced on Chile in 1973 and on Bolivia, Argentina and Britain in the 1980s. Thatcher launched her counter-revolution, crashing the economy, on the back of the triumphalist Falklands war. Klein describes Yeltsin¿s 1993 coup when his forces killed 500 people in Moscow, burnt the parliament (Yeltsin¿s own Reichstag fire) and imprisoned the opposition. Clinton and the EU¿s leaders vigorously supported it all. Yeltsin then enforced the free market, since when Russia¿s population has fallen by 6.6 million. Between 1989 and 1997 the number of poor people rose from 2 million to 74 million. In the 1990s, Poland too got the shock treatment, and now has 40% youth unemployment. 59% live below the poverty line, compared to 15% in 1989. In South Africa, `Just call me a Thatcherite¿ Thabo Mbeki was in charge of the economic negotiations when the ANC let apartheid¿s rulers keep control of the economy. The ANC adopted Friedman¿s policy of central bank `independence¿, which means independent from democratic control, responsible only to finance capital. This key policy is in South Africa¿s Constitution, as is the protection of private property, exactly as in the EU¿s Constitution. Both Constitutions make the rule of capital into legal duties. The ANC also accepted the World Trade Organisation¿s rule that it is illegal to subsidise industries and accepted `wage restraint¿, the International Monetary Fund condition for loans. Who gains? South Africa¿s whites still own 70% of the land and four giant firms own and control the banks, mines, industries and 80% of the Stock Exchange. Who loses? Since 1990, black people¿s life expectancy has fallen by 13 years and between 1991 and 2002, black unemployment doubled to 48%. Klein rightly praises the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a fair trade system of barter between the peoples of Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela, which is a great example of people taking responsibility for rebuilding their lives. But she fantasises that the IMF, World Bank and WTO are `withering away¿. And she writes that disaster capitalism ¿will remain entrenched until the corporate supremacist ideology that underpins it is identified, isolated and challenged.¿ Like some of her reviewers, she seems to think that (her) books will change the world.

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    Posted October 28, 2008

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    Posted April 13, 2010

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    Posted March 23, 2009

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    Posted October 26, 2008

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    Posted October 23, 2008

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