The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

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by Naomi Klein

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ISBN-10: 0676978010

ISBN-13: 9780676978018

Pub. Date: 07/29/2008

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Winner of the 2009 Warwick Prize for Writing

"Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around."
—Milton Friedman

The shock doctrine is the unofficial story of how the "free market" came to dominate the world,


Winner of the 2009 Warwick Prize for Writing

"Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around."
—Milton Friedman

The shock doctrine is the unofficial story of how the "free market" came to dominate the world, from Chile to Russia, China to Iraq, South Africa to Canada. But it is a story radically different from the one usually told. It is a story about violence and shock perpetrated on people, on countries, on economies. About a program of social and economic engineering that is driving our world, that Naomi Klein calls "disaster capitalism."

Based on breakthrough historical research and four years of on-the-ground reporting in disaster zones, Klein explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically, and that unfettered capitalism goes hand-in-hand with democracy. Instead, she argues it has consistently relied on violence and shock, and reveals the puppet strings behind the critical events of the last four decades.

"The shock doctrine" is the influential but little understood theory that in order to push through profoundly unpopular policies that enrich the few and impoverish the many, there needs to be some kind of collective crisis or disaster – either real or manufactured. A crisis that opens up a "window of opportunity" – when people and societies are too disoriented to protect their own interests – for radically remaking countries using the trademark tactic of rapid-fire economic shock therapy and, all too often, less metaphorical forms of shock: the shock of the police truncheon, the Taser gun or the electric prod in the prison cell.

Klein vividly traces the origins of modern shock tactics back to the economic lab of the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman in the 60s, and beyond to the CIA-funded electroshock experiments at McGill University in the 50s which helped write the torture manuals used today at Guantanamo Bay. She details, in this riveting – indeed shocking – story, the well-known events of the recent past that have been deliberate, active theatres for the shock doctrine: among them, Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973, the Falklands War in 1982, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991; and, more recently, the September 11 attacks, the "Shock and Awe" invasion of Iraq, the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. And she shows how – in the hands of the Bush Administration – the "war on terror" is a thin cover for a thriving destruction/ reconstruction complex, with disasters, wars and homeland security fuelling a booming new economy. Naomi Klein has once again written a book that will change the way we see the world.

"The world is a messy place, and someone has to clean it up."
—Condoleezza Rice, September 2002, on the need to invade Iraq

"George’s answer to any problem at the ranch is to cut it down with a chainsaw. Which I think is why he and Cheney and Rumsfeld get along so well."
—Laura Bush

From Chile to China to Iraq, torture has been a silent partner in the global free market crusade. But torture is more than a tool used to enforce unwanted policies on rebellious peoples; it is also a metaphor of the shock doctrine’s underlying logic. Torture, or in CIA language "coercive interrogation," is a set of techniques designed to put prisoners into a state of deep disorientation and shock in order to force them to make concessions against their will. ...The shock doctrine mimics this process precisely, attempting to achieve on a mass scale what torture does one on one in the interrogation cell. ...The original disaster – the coup, the terrorist attack, the market meltdown, the war, the tsunami, the hurricane – puts the entire population into a state of collective shock. The falling bombs, the bursts of terror, the pounding winds serve to soften up whole societies much as the blaring music and blows in the torture cells soften up prisoners. Like the terrorized prisoner who gives up the names of comrades and renounces his faith, shocked societies often give up things they would otherwise fiercely protect.
—from Shock Doctrine

From the Hardcover edition.

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Knopf Canada
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
5.98(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.42(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Blank Is Beautiful: Three Decades of Erasing and Remaking the World     3
Two Doctor Shocks: Research and Development     27
The Torture Lab: Ewen Cameron, the CIA and the Maniacal Quest to Erase and Remake the Human Mind     29
The Other Doctor Shock: Milton Friedman and the Search for a Laissez-Faire Laboratory     59
The First Test: Birth Pangs     89
States of Shock: The Bloody Birth of the Counterrevolution     91
Cleaning the Slate: Terror Does Its Work     121
"Entirely Unrelated": How an Ideology Was Cleansed of Its Crimes     144
Surviving Democracy: Bombs Made of Laws     161
Saved by a War: Thatcherism and Its Useful Enemies     163
The New Doctor Shock: Economic Warfare Replaces Dictatorship     177
Crisis Works: The Packaging of Shock Therapy     194
Lost in Transition: While We Wept, While We Trembled, While We Danced     213
Slamming the Door on History: A Crisis in Poland, a Massacre in China     215
Democracy Born in Chains: South Africa's Constricted Freedom     245
Bonfire of a Young Democracy: Russia Chooses "The Pinochet Option"     275
The Capitalist Id: Russia and the New Era of the Boor Market     310
Let It Burn: The Looting of Asia and "The Fall of a Second Berlin Wall"     332
Shocking Times: The Rise of the Disaster Capitalism Complex     355
Shock Therapy in the U.S.A.: The Homeland Security Bubble     357
A Corporatist State: Removing the Revolving Door, Putting in an Archway     389
Iraq, Full Circle: Overshock     409
Erasing Iraq: In Search of a "Model" for the Middle East     411
Ideological Blowback: A Very Capitalist Disaster     431
Full Circle: From Blank Slate to Scorched Earth     456
The Movable Green Zone: Buffer Zones and Blast Walls     485
Blanking the Beach: "The Second Tsunami"     487
Disaster Apartheid: A World of Green Zones and Red Zones     513
Losing the Peace Incentive: Israel as Warning     535
Conclusion: Shock Wears Off: The Rise of People's Reconstruction     560
Notes     591
Acknowledgments     667
Index     677

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Shock Doctrine 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The most convincing argument in Klein's book is that Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the gang set out to privatize as many government functions as possible, and were immensely successful: they've created a 'hollow' government, in which huge chunks of YOUR tax dollars go straight to the palms of CEO's and corporations, freed from government oversight. As Klein argues, with strong supporting evidence, there are less checks on this government than ever and more power in the hands of select corporate bosses, due largely to the zealous application of subcontracting. It's safe to say that government subcontracting is out of control, and we are paying dearly. This isn't trickle down, it's trickle out and out and out. You may not fully agree with Klein's thesis that this is all by grand design, but after reading this book, you certainly will see that the Bush administration doesn't exactly fight the chance to subcontract any chance they get. And very few people seem to benefit.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine is absolutely wonderful! Filled with insight, thought-provoking failures in American foreign policy, including that of the ill-conceived Bush Administration. Careful, the content of this book will reinforce what what most American's know by experience: trickle down economic theory is a failure. Trickle down only to the have's as evident in the exceptions the GOP Congress gave to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour so he could shell out to his friends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
RussellBittner More than 1 year ago
Naomi Klein isn't a stylist. Her sentence at the opening of Chapter 12 ("The Capitalist ID") is about as close as she gets to stylistic writing: "On the day I went to visit Jeffrey Sachs in October 2006, New York City was under a damp blanket of gray drizzle punctuated, every five paces or so, by a vibrant burst of red." No, she's not an English-language stylist. She's a Canadian journalist. And a damned good one, at that! And one who'd put a lot of journalists -- assuming they'd not simply been told to look the other way on the possible cause of a virtually worldwide financial crisis -- to shame in papers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, not to mention in magazines as august as The Atlantic. (Let's not even mention the networks, shall we? They're better at expounding upon popular trends and telling tragic doggie stories.) Could it be that the party (for many, though certainly not for all of us) here in these United States was just too long and too good from the end of WW II until now? Even Eisenhower -- a conservative if there ever was one -- publicly recognized the arrival of the military-industrial complex. Is this new brand of disaster capitalism really anything more than the "logical" evolution of that complex? I have a confession to make: I of course knew the name `Milton Friedman' and something about his reputation; I also knew the reputation of the University of Chicago (albeit more for its History Department than for its Economics Department); I, myself, am a graduate of the Philosophy Department of Columbia University. All of this notwithstanding, I was absolutely ignorant of any of this economic shock treatment -- from Chile and Argentina, to Poland and Russia, then on to Asia, to Iraq (where our behavior has been beyond despicable) and the Middle East, and back home again to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. I owe Ms. Klein a humble vote of gratitude. And it was only thanks to a fellow Greek writer, whose own country is now on the verge of financial collapse, that I even found out about Ms. Klein's book. Don't make a comparable fool out of yourself through similar (and similarly unpardonable) ignorance. Buy this book and read it cover to cover! Yes, we're talking history here; but we're also talking current events -- events that could bring not only the entire developing world to its knees, but also these hallowed United States and our gracious neighbor to the north. And all because of one man, one misbegotten ideology, one group of protégés, acolytes, disciples -- and yes, I'll say it -- intellectual toadies known as `The Chicago Boys.' And the IMF and the World Bank, many of whose policy makers are obvious lackeys in the service of that same `School of Chicago' ideology if not to something even more sinister? Pfff! One caveat to all of the above: I've never read the original works of Milton Friedman. Nor did I ever attend any of his classes while he was still alive. I trust Ms. Klein to have reported as accurately as she has documented. If not, shame on me for being so gullible and impressionable. And one last thing: we all know the wide gulf that exists between the original teachings of Jesus and the way Christianity, through various churches and sects, has chosen to interpret and propagate those teachings over the centuries. Would Jesus Christ call himself a Christian by today's standards of Christianity? Karl Marx once famously said he was no Marxist. Would Milton Friedman, given the demonic evolution of his economic theory, still call himself a Friedmanite? I fear, given his comment in the Op Ed section of The Wall Street Journal as recently as September 15, 2005 (p. 410) that he would. The news in the concluding chapter ("Shock Wears Off: The Rise of People's Reconstruction") is good: all is not lost. Let's hope that Ms. Klein's optimism is not as much in error as my original ignorance. Let's hope that society -- and Rousseau's original concept of the social contract -- are not yet lost. RRB 05/28/13
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book sheds light on a lot of issues e.g Govt, companies, etc. I found it very detailed. Ms Klein did a great job.
JohnGalt73 More than 1 year ago
I finished reading The Shock Doctrine several weeks ago and wanted to write a review at that time but felt that in fairness to the author I might wait, allow myself the opportunity to think on what she presented. I can say now I was not persuaded by her book. This book is largely the opinion of Naomi Klein an opinion largely unsupported by any empirical evidence, not that she even considers that important. She uses verbal tricks in place of evidence the best example is that she says poor people in Chile used up about half their income after free market economic policies were implemented to buy bread, where as previously Government Employee's used less than 15 percent of their income to buy bread. What a lovely comparison Government Employee's under a Marxist system with poor people under a capitalist system. Why didn't she compare Government Employee's before to Government Employee's after or poor people before to poor people after, my guess is that it would not portray things the way she wanted them to be. Did she lie probably not, does she intend to mislead I would say absolutely. For those who don't want to waste time by reading the whole book you can read just a few pages and get the message she intends to portray. Her and her fellow elites know what is best for you. When Milton Friedman suggested that Katrina presented an opportunity to do things different, and suggested now might be the time to try school vouchers and "privatize" education. Ms. Klein then suggests we should restore things back to their original conditions and rebuild the public schools that have failed New Orleans poor for generations. Why would she not want to try something different, why would she condemn others to a failed system of education? One in which neither she nor her elite friends who praised her book would expose their own offspring. She condemns a man for one misrepresented statement. A man who won the Nobel Prize for doing something unlike some have for doing nothing or making propaganda films. This same person whom she portrays as uncaring for the poor was anything but that uncaring person she claims he was, any one statement can be taken out of context and Ms. Klein does it over and over again. This same person she condemned very much thought we should relieve those in "grinding poverty". The method she proposes has been tried over and over in the course of mankind's time here on earth, and it has been an abject failure time and time again. She thinks big corporations are the problem, and they well should be watched and punished for wrong doing, but her solution about having a bigger more powerful government has proven to be a bigger disaster which has led to the death of millions. Her biggest misrepresentation is she attributed to Mr. Friedman the following statement "it is impossible to do good with other people's money". What he in fact said was that "in order to do good with other people's money you must first do something bad, that is, take it from them by force". Ms. Klein is a socialist/Marxist/Leninist pure and simple and has no problems lying and deceiving to advance her ideology, much as Lenin did in his book Imperialism. If you wish to learn something beneficial instead of this book try "Visions of the Anointed" by Thomas Sowell it would certainly be time better spent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
kimbakristin More than 1 year ago
In this chilling history of deregulated capitalism gone wild, Naomi Klein shows how Milton Friedman and his followers have taken advantage of chaos--caused by coups d'etat, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters--to transform tragedies into lucrative profit ventures. The strategy? When the population is in a state of shock and trauma, quickly push through your desired economic policies: privitization, deregulation, and cuts in government services. If some brutality is required along the way, so be it. While this topic has been covered by others, Klein offers a detailed chronicle of "shock treatment" doled out by Friedman and his friends from the Chicago School of Economics (with help from the World Bank and the IMF) over the last several decades, beginning in the wake of Pinochet's bloody coup in Chile, then moving on to other South American countries, followed by countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. In case after case, she offers a peek at the players behind the scenes and the heartbreaking human costs. Klein gives nods to Keynesianism here and there (wish that would have been explored more), but her own orthodoxy does bleed through in parts, thus the deducted star. It's only a few pages before the end of the book that she briefly acknowledges, for instance, that pure socialism has also often been implemented and maintained using brual methods. Still, it's a compelling book and a must-read for anyone who wants to understand more about the innerworkings of this ongoing phase of history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NMUwildcat More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was very informative. The topic covered filled in a lot of blanks that I had in history. It completely explains why most of the world hates America and rest doesn't trust us. But that more than echos my personal opinions of corporate America. Pure greed, with the money squeezed from the lives of its workforce and customers. Hopefully more people will read this book and others like it. So if you are one of the 1% of Americans that own 95% of the wealth of this country, you probably wont like this book.
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Reneaux More than 1 year ago
There are some aspects of this book that are a bit of a stretch. But all and all it is an interesting explanation of what has happened in parts of the world, via US monetary Policy with the IMF and world bank and how they have raped countries in the name of capitalism. It also explains to me how the middle class came under attack, and how it is being destroyed by former US administrations, and no one is apt to save it.
NJMetal More than 1 year ago
My 1 star rating is a bit deceptive. It is only so low becuase the subject matter of this book is simply not up my alley. I did force myself to go through all 589 pages despite all the little voices in my head telling me to move on. In all fairness, this book is very well reaearched and written. The subject matter delves heavily into economics and global economies. Simply not my area of interest. There is much to be learned from this book in a historical context. Howver I did find a lot of the conclusions of the authors reasearch to be politically slanted and open to serious debate. This is problably a great book for a liberal democrat economist.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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samtparry More than 1 year ago
Klein puts the pieces of America's recent history and involvement in the dirty wars of South and Central America, globalization, the spread of free market ideology, the Iraq war, and the corporatization of the global economy. It's a riveting story that all Americans should read.