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'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein

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'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein

Post by Ivan on Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:18 pm

‘The Shock Doctrine’ by Naomi Klein (Penguin, 2007) is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. For a start, it destroys the myth that the free market and democracy go hand-in-hand, nothing could be further from the truth. The book was written before Cameron’s dire government came to power in the UK in 2010, but it describes the process of how much of what was previously under political control is hived off to corporations with no democratic accountability. That's exactly what Cameron is doing (and without any sort of mandate), even to the point of privatising police dog handlers! We've been told repeatedly for years that private is good and public is bad, though the recent performance of G4S might make some think otherwise.
 
Klein explains how the philosophy behind this drift into corporate fascism originated about fifty years ago in the University of Chicago School of Economics under the leadership of Milton Friedman. It seeks a return to the unbridled capitalism which was discredited by the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and by economists such as John Maynard Keynes. In essence, Friedman advocated ‘disaster capitalism’, where you wait for a major crisis (such as the global credit crunch of 2008) and sell off pieces of the state to private players while citizens are still reeling from the shock. Then you quickly make the changes as irrevocable as possible, changes which, as skwalker1964 wrote on another board, “strip away cherished public provisions and replace them with private enterprise that costs more and does little but funnel public wealth into a small number of private and corporate bank accounts.
 
Klein describes how immediately after 9/11, Bush’s government quietly outsourced the running of the ‘War on Terror’ to Halliburton and Blackwater, and how New Orleans’s residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, found out that their public housing, hospitals and schools would never be reopened. She follows the application of ‘disaster capitalism’ through contemporary history, showing how well-known events of the recent past (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, the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998) have been deliberate active theatres for the doctrine.
 
This book is, in my opinion, a profound work and a ‘must’ for anyone who wants to comprehend the ideology and implementation of right-wing politics and economics in the world today.
 
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'The Shock Doctrine'

Post by cybercheshired on Sun Oct 14, 2012 4:37 pm

Interesting read, but I wasn't sure how far waiting around for the next disaster is a viable basis for a political movement. Wouldn't there be a lot of dead time? Isn't there a need to be a bit more proactive? How does the right do that?
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Re: 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein

Post by Ivan on Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:17 pm

It's simple, they create a disaster, just as Pinochet did in Chile in 1973.

In 1980, Thatcher didn't want to pay for the defence of the Falklands and hoped Nicholas Ridley would persuade the inhabitants to accept a handover to Argentina. They weren't keen, but she reduced the defence of the islands, sending a signal to Argentina that an invasion might be easy and might not bother the UK too much. Chapter 6 of Naomi Klein's book explains how Thatcher was "saved by a war" and once re-elected was able to implement her Friedmanite ideology with the privatisation of the utilities. Major followed up with the railways, and now Cameron is hell-bent on asset-stripping the entire state while the nation is still in shock over the global credit crunch.

Another 'disaster' was created by George 'Dubya' Bush, with his invasion of Iraq, which Klein covers in some detail. With hindsight, the invasion appears to have had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction or Saddam's "attempt to kill my daddy" but more to do with opening up new markets to American companies. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney certainly prospered from it.
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Re: 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein

Post by cybercheshired on Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:40 pm

Yes I can see how that works. But it just seems too passive to be that useful as either a policy instrument or analytical tool. The Thatcher example says it; if she hadn't been "saved by a war" I'm sure she would have found some other avenue. I'm sure the right have more proactive ideas and methods. I get the "shock", but I'm not convinced it amounts to a "doctrine."
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Re: 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein

Post by Ivan on Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:35 pm

I don’t have a problem with the concept of ‘doctrine’ in this regard. A doctrine is a principle taught as true, and that’s exactly what Milton Friedman preached - “laissez faire” (an unrestricted free market), self-interest and every aspect of the state in private hands.

Friedman also taught that there was a ‘natural’ rate of unemployment, and if government increased employment above that level it would cause inflation. That suggests to me that Thatcher never had any intention of getting people back to work, a cause which she trumpeted at the 1979 election and for which she so spectacularly failed.
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Re: 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Oct 14, 2012 10:16 pm

"every aspect of the state in private hands"

I've probably missed the point as usual, but Thatcher's Privatisation had the perhaps unintended result (who knows?) of placing control of Britain's Utilities partly or wholly under the control of foreign governments through their ownership of nationalised companies which bought the shares.
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Re: 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein

Post by skwalker1964 on Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:06 am

This book is one of the most outstanding and paradigm-transforming I've ever read. I'm on my 2nd reading, lost the book halfway through while I was travelling, then bought it again so I could continue the 2nd reading. That's how good it is.
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Re: 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:34 pm

Last year, one of Cameron's generous proposals was that "CHARITY" should play a greater part in reducing the public's dependence upon State Welfare handouts.  Not everyone understood quite where he had got this radical Victorian idea from, but I found this reference in an article describing the rapid growth of Bournemouth during the late XIX Century ....
 
Until the advent of the Welfare State, the care of the underprivileged in society was undertaken by
charitable welfare institutions, charities and benevolent societies funded by private donors,
subscriptions and fund-raising events such as flag days. Many of the functions of modern social
services, health provision, pensions, provided by the state were completely dependent on goodwill.
People might join provident societies which would insure them for a small weekly payment.

The Sisters of Bethany opened a home for orphan children in Bournemouth in 1875 next to St
Clements Church in Boscombe. In 1897 an infirmary was added together with a large kitchen
garden, a poultry yard and a ‘recreation meadow’ for the children to play in. The orphanage took
children between 2-10 years providing them with nursery and school education while the older girls
were trained for domestic service. The orphanage was maintained by
* the private means of the Society
* a number of small payments for a few of the children
* a working laundry, and
* public subscriptions and donations.

A Charity for Providing a Nurse for the parish of Holdenhurst in the County of Hants was set up in
1903 and known locally as the Nursing Charity. The trustees were the vicar and chairman of the
parish council and three other people two of whom were required to be ladies. Meetings were to be
held monthly and minute books of the proceedings were to be kept and to record receipts and
expenditures. The trustees were to appoint a ‘properly qualified person’ to give nursing aid ‘to the
persons who cannot afford or who can least afford to pay for such services.’

 
The more that things change, the more they remain the same.
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'The Shock Doctrine'

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:34 pm

The problem may be that newly wealthy people do not understand the concept of noblesse oblige. They think that they can be part of the World without participating in the whole of it.
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Re: 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein

Post by Ivan on Fri Mar 21, 2014 10:30 pm

Trickle-down economics didn’t happen. The USA has drifted towards a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century.”
 
So said Jim Webb, who was a senator for Virginia (Democrat, of course) from 2007 to 2013. His comment is borne out by the fact that in the USA, 95% of the rise in national income between 2009 and 2012 went to the richest 1%. In the USA in 1980, CEOs made 43 times what the average worker earned; by 2005, CEOs ‘earned’ 411 times as much.
 
I doubt if anyone will read this (as it’s not been posted on either the religion or the UK politics boards), but I’ve recently been reading ‘The Shock Doctrine’ for a second time. I feel that the last chapter – entitled ‘Shock wears off’ – merits some specific comment. In that chapter, Naomi Klein reminds us that the core tenets of Chicago School economics are privatisation, deregulation and cuts to government services. These policies turn the already wealthy into the super rich and the organised working class into the disposable poor. This has been repeated everywhere that the Chicago School ideology has triumphed.
 
Klein mentions that both Friedman and Pinochet (the latter of whom was under house arrest) died within a month of each other in 2006, the former Uruguayan leader Juan Bordaberry was arrested, and the Republicans lost Congress to the Democrats in the 2006 elections. Life sentences were handed down in Argentina to an ex-president and an admiral, and some Russian oligarchs went to jail or had to live in exile. Some of the staunchest opponents of neoliberal economics were winning elections in countries such as Venezuela and Uruguay. Klein points out (p.446) that “the economic crusade had managed to cling to a veneer of respectability and lawfulness as it progressed. Now that veneer was being very publicly stripped away to reveal a system of gross wealth inequalities, often opened up with the aid of grotesque criminality.”
 
Ideas such as democratic socialism, so successful in Scandinavia, were never defeated in a great battle of ideas, just shocked out of the way at key political junctures. And then ‘shock’ was given a new lease of life by the global credit crunch which began in September 2008 with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. In a lecture delivered in 2009, Klein said: “This crisis is clearly understood by almost everyone as being the direct result of the ideology of deregulation and privatisation. The tactic is getting tired, the element of surprise is no longer there, we’re becoming shock resistant.”
 
Maybe Klein was rather premature with regard to the UK. In the year after Klein delivered that lecture, Cameron crawled into power with the help of a supposedly left-of-centre party. He used the crisis as cover for the implementation of widespread privatisation and cuts to government services, exactly as Friedman would have prescribed. Cameron's government spends around £187 billion a year on goods and services, about half of which is now estimated to be used on contracting out to private and voluntary providers. Contractors are now responsible for vast areas of public services from managing offices, providing computer equipment and paying pensions to running prisons and immigration removal schemes, assessing benefit claimants and even maintaining nuclear weapons. Government ministers are stepping up the process with the part-privatisation of the probation service, and by handing responsibility to welfare-to-work programme to private companies.
 
It’s only now that British people appear to be becoming “shock resistant”, as polls suggest that public opinion is for more state control and less inequality. Late last year, Allister Heath, editor of ‘City A.M.’, wrote: "Slowly but surely, the public is turning its back on the free market economy and re-embracing an atavistic version of socialism." That was in response to what he called a "terrifying" YouGov poll, commissioned by the union-backed think-tank ‘Class’, which suggested there was mass support for re-nationalisation of public utilities such as energy and rail, and for rent controls. Other polls show the electorate want taxes hiked on the rich and a council house building programme. And the TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, added: “It is time to end the default assumption that anything done by the public sector is better done by private contractors. The truth is that there has been a growing tide of outsourcing scandals, fraud and service failure. Some of this is down to government incompetence in contracting out, but much is an inevitable result of replacing the public sector ethos with the profit motive and cost-cutting.”
 
Friedmanite ideas may well be in retreat, and even more so if and when the Tory-led government in the UK is booted out. However, as Tony Benn, who died last week, reminded us: “Every generation has to fight the same battles as their ancestors had to fight, again and again, for there is no final victory and no final defeat.”
 
Sources used (in addition to ‘The Shock Doctrine’):-
 
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/government-accused-of-deliberate-attempt-to-cover-up-fraudulent-incompetent-and-embarrassing-outsourcing-contracts-9190788.html
 
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/14/left-after-tony-benn-bob-crow
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Re: 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein

Post by boatlady on Fri May 16, 2014 9:59 pm

Took the book with me on holiday - I got about halfway through.
The last non-fiction book that caused me such a strong emotional response was Gitta Sereny's book about Franz Stengl and the development of Treblinka.

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