The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

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by Naomi Klein

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,

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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

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Product Details

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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