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A review of Naomi Klein - The Shock Doctrine

by davel Tue Mar 31st, 2009 at 04:30:35 PM EST

Note to ET readers: I have a blog where I write about things I've read and seen. It's not so much for serious reviews, because I suck at that. It's more a reminder to myself to keep track of things, and for family and close friends to read. So it doesn't really go into much depth, because the expected readership already knows pretty much what makes me tick.

Anyway, one of the books I read recently was Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine". In Finance Rules, OK?, I mentioned it, someone dissed it, and Migeru asked if anyone had reviewed it. When I said yes, Migeru suggested I cross-post mine here. Dont acte.

You may comment here or there, I don't mind. If you tell me I'm a complete eejit on my blog I will of course be able to delete it :)


Every once in a while a really good book comes along that connects the dots in a new way, and the result leads to a deeper understanding of human civilisation. This is one such book.

When some financial pundit argues that things would be so much better if only we paid heed to the likes of Milton Friedman, we now have the choice of being able to dismiss them as clueless, sold out or just plain dangerous.

Above all, this essay is a stunning indictment of the Chicago School of Economics, effortlessly deconstructing the toxic underpinnings of Friedman's pet theories: state=evil, incompetent versus, private enterprise=good, efficient... and we are seeing just how wrong this is in 2009.

As the past few decades have shown, slavishly following these theories has resulted in a relentless transfer of wealth from the many to the few. And now, as the wheels fall off the global economy, the message contained in this book becomes even more important. It's time to throw Friedman out onto the rubbish dump of history. Sorry. Nice try, but no thanks. I already gave at the office.

Among many other things I learnt from reading this, perhaps one of the most important things I take away from the book is a new point of view from which to understand Israel-Palestine relations.

In essence, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to widespread emigration, and according to the anywhere-but-here school of thought, people were happy to escape to Israel. This in turn disrupted the uneasy equilibrium between the Israeli and Palestinian people, since the former suddenly needed the latter a whole lot less as a source of cheap labour. This gave the Israelis a strong negotiating position which in turn enabled them to lock down the territories.

I find this line of thought quite intriguing, in that I've never heard anyone else articulate it before now.

My only criticism of the book would be Klein's use of the term "shock doctor" to describe the acolytes of Friedman who launch their brutal economic measures on country after country around the world. A doctor is someone who heals. These people inflict damage.

Other people have been writing about this subject for years. This just happens to be a very articulate and up-to-date essay. It's a must read. Really. Go out and buy it, or borrow it from a library.


So there you are. There's a lot more to the book than what's here, I've really only skimmed the surface. And no, I haven't read the Swedish critique.

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