Saturday, December 15, 2007

Incredible and important book: Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctine

Here's my entry for Naomi Kline's new book The Shock Doctrine in Library Thing:

TitleThe Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
AuthorNaomi Klein
Tagsdisaster-capitalism milton_friedman chicago-school free_markets imf world_bank latin_america iraq israel tsunami new_orleans ewen_cameron torture russia china chile argentina bolivia
Your reviewThis is literally a life-changing book. After reading it, one's view of the world is changed forever, and the world suddenly makes sense in a way it never did before. What was inexplicable suddenly comes into sharp focus, and random evil now has a purpose and goal, and with that understanding comes the possibility of change.

The book is about the Chicago School of Economics and its guru, Milton Friedman, and their effect on the world. Friedman advocated radically free markets. He called such markets pure, and stated that any government interference in the market corrupts it. Therefore he called for privatization of government assets, freedom from government regulations, and from trade barriers. Friedman's views were a response to the views of John Maynard Keynes, the economist behind the post WW II reconstruction efforts of Europe and Japan.

The problem was that Friedman's vision of pure and free markets was not appealing to any but the wealthy; it seemed to offer few benefits to the middle and lower classes, the majority of voters in a democracy. So Friedman had difficulty getting any government to adopt his ideas.

Enter the research of Ewen Cameron, a psychiatrist with impressive credentials. He believed that to create healthy new behaviors in patients he had to break up their old psychological patterns by breaking down their current structures. To do this , he used electroshock and drugs, including hallucinogens, and other techniques to "de-pattern" his patients. Many lost their memories and some became incapable of functioning normally... but the CIA became interested in the techniques as a method of mind control. Cameron's techniques, including isolation and sensory deprivation, became instruments of torture: "As a means of extracting information during interrogations, torture is notoriously unreliable, but as means of terrorizing and controlling populations, nothing is quite as effective" (p. 126).

"It was in 1982 that Milton Friedman wrote the highly influential passage that best summarizes the shock doctrine: "Only a crisis -real or perceived - produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believed, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable." (p. 140) Crisis could create opportunity for drastic new measures to be introduced quickly, to cause such shock among the populace that they were incapable of acting counter to the new policies. So the ideas of Cameron and Friedman merged to exploit or create shocks that would allow governments to pursue doctrines that would never succeed democratically.

The first true laboratory for the shock doctrine was the Pinochet coup in Chile against Allende, a coup backed by the CIA. "The shock of the coup prepared the ground for economic shock therapy; the shock of the torture chamber terrorized anyone thinking of standing in the way of the economic shocks." (p. 71).

There has to be a warning that this book will at times make the reader sick to his/her stomach... there are graphic depictions of torture. Yet the horror is not gratuitous, it is vital to understanding all that happened.

The Chicago school triumphed in country after country, especially after they captured the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, those institutions ironically set up to carry out Keynesian ideas of reconstruction after disaster.

The results in so many countries were the same. A small core of native elites and multinational companies profited enormously. But the percentage of the people living in poverty rose drastically, native industries disappeared, unable to compete, farms became bankrupt, unemployment soared and wages were depressed for those who still had a job. In South Africa and Poland, popular regimes elected to dismantle repressive regimes were forced to pay the debts of those old regimes, and to do so had to accept money from the IMF, with the attending requirements to adopt Friedman style economics.

Much of the book is a detailed examination of the shock doctrine and its effects in country after country - the Southern Cone countries of Latin America, Poland, South Africa, Russia, China, Iraq, Israel... the list goes on and on. Finally the war in Iraq makes some sense: the idea was to "shock and awe" Iraq to create a tabula rasa, a clean slate upon which would be drawn a stable sound country, free economically and democratically, which would serve as a blueprint to remake the entire Middle East (it becomes clear that part of the draw of Islamic terrorist organizations, like the Mahdi Army and Hezbollah, is that these groups have provided basic services, like hospitals, schools, and garbage disposal, that governments were no longer providing).

The shocks now even include natural disasters, with a disaster economy ready to go and to profit from them, perhaps most strikingly illustrated after the 2004 tsunami, when so many who relied on fishing for their living lost the beach front lands their families had owned for generations, to New Orleans, where public schools were not rebuilt and private schools became the norm. In Israel, the homeland security firms have become the backbone of the economy, driving a disinclination to secure peace.

But in many places, especially Latin America where the shocks are beginning to wear off,. Such places are becoming resistant to further shock, having suffered the worst that shock could do.

If you only read one book on current affairs, let it be this one. If you aren't interested in politics, manufacture an interest long enough to read this one book. Vital events are happening throughout the world that affect our lives, and the course this country decides to take for the future. Reading this book helps one to make informed decisions as a voter and citizen.
PublicationMetropolitan Books (2007), Hardcover, 576 pages
Publication date2007
ISBN0805079831 / 9780805079838
Primary languageEnglish
SummaryThe Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein (2007)
Citation MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, Wikipedia citation
Entry date2007-12-13

1 comment:

Author said...

You can read more about Dr. Ewen Cameron's CIA-funded experiments and all the MKULTRA subprojects in the MKULTRA Briefing Book, which was prepared by the CIA in 1976. The CIA Inspector General wrote in 1958 of MKULTRA: "Precautions must be taken not only to protect operations from exposure to enemy forces but also to conceal these activities from the American public in general. The knowledge that the agency is engaging in unethical and illicit activities would have serious repercussions in political and diplomatic circles."