The Shock Doctrine

Link to Naomi
to Naomi Klein's Newsletter
Materiales en español

Subscribe Reviews of The Shock Doctrine

Naomi Klein’s Excellent Adventures

By Stan Persky, March 8, 2010


If you’re a teacher, what your students are wearing tells you something about what’s going on in the culture. In the 1980s and 90s, I noticed that walking into a classroom was like hitting a stretch of highway crowded with advertising billboards. The students were wearing T-shirts, sweatshirts, and other paraphernalia that brazenly bore the names of the corporations that manufactured them. Unlike earlier displays of brand logos, such as the discreet crocodile insignia of a Lacoste shirt or the little horseman and mallet that decorated Ralph Lauren’s Polo shirts, which were meant to subtly but publicly indicate the wearer’s good taste and purchasing power, the new T-shirts were emblazoned with giant corporate names and company colours — Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, The Gap, and others — that tended to cover most of the surface of the garment being worn.

The Shock Doctrine

Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2008

Klein launches a highly polemical, and persuasive, assault on free-market fundamentalism. She rips into the big-business agenda to show how economic opportunists need and promote misery and disaster, challenging us to look at world-changing events -- Pinochet's coup, Tiananmen Square, the collapse of the Soviet Union, Hurricane Katrina -- from a whole other perspective. Not everybody's going to agree with her, but this is reporting and history-writing in the tradition of Izzy Stone and Upton Sinclair. Klein upends assumptions and demands that we think -- her book is thrilling, troubling and very dark.

Patrick Bond's Response to Doug Henwood

Written by Patrick Bond, April 28, 2008

Patrick Bond responds below to Doug Henwood's review, "Awe, Shocks!" which appeared in The Left Business Observer.

Hey, you have some good points, but isn't this review a bit over the top and often a caricature, Doug?

Doug sez (I reply after the *, not that Naomi needs any defenders):

"The Shock Doctrine is organized around a conceit: “shock” and its cousin “disaster” explain the political economy of the last several decades."

* Doug, there are increasing reports, e.g. by David Harvey (whom you hailed at his booklaunch a few years ago), that extraeconomic coercion - accumulation by dispossession - is central to contemporary political economy. You don't use the word "conceit" when you address Harvey's thesis, do you? Why "conceit" when shock, disaster and economic-psychosocial linkages are concepts Naomi has deployed?

"the list of instances is so varied that they don’t always merit a single theory."

A Review of The Shock Doctrine: The Face of Fascism in a Global System Heading for Collapse

by Juan Santos, The Fourth World, December 30, 2007

Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas is a poet, but he is not just any poet: he’s a poet armed not only with words, but with bullets – and not only with words and bullets, but with the heart of the Mayan people of Chiapas. He is a poet and a revolutionary who abandoned the ivory tower for the jungle – for the Selva Lacandona - to live with, to fight with, and to die with los de ‘bajo – the people on the bottom, who lives are crushed beneath the weight of the pyramid of Empire. He has taken their part, their lot, their future as his own.

Milton's Wet Dream

Suzi Steffen, Eugene Weekly, December 13, 2007

It seems at once absurd and absurdly low, the price of this new book by journalist Naomi Klein (No Logo). Americans aren't used to spending $28 for a book thanks to the curious lag in hardcover prices compared to inflation. And it's so painful to read Klein's book, a narrative tying torture to economic theory, that even the hopeful final chapter barely rouses a flickering flame of optimism. Who would pay for that? Yet for her meticulously researched tome, for her clarity in explaining just how Milton Friedman and his minions came to dominate world economic discourse by throwing their lot in with the ilk of Augusto Pinochet, whatever recompense she earns can't be enough.

Best of 2007

Lenora Todaro, Village Voice, December 5, 2007

In The Shock Doctrine, journalist Klein trains her sharp investigator's eye upon the flaws of neoliberal economics. This meticulously researched alternative history, ranging from economist Milton Friedman's "University of Chicago Boys" to George W. Bush, brings Klein's argument into the present. Using stirring reportage, she shows the ways that disasters— unnatural ones like the war in Iraq, and natural ones like the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina—allow governments and multinationals to take advantage of citizen shock and implement corporate-friendly policies: Where once was a Sri Lankan fishing village now stands a luxury resort. The Shock Doctrine aims its 10-foot-long middle finger at the Bush administration and the generations of neocons who've chosen profits over people in war and disaster; the effect is to provide intellectual armor for the now-mainstream anticorporatist crowd.

Caution, 'Disaster Capitalism' at Work

Katharine Dunn, The Oregonian, December 2, 2007

Those of us who imagine economists to be mild souls preoccupied with tedious abstractions are in for a shock from The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein's stunning, polemic re-examination of the last 30-plus years in the history of free-market capitalism. If we bought the myth of corporate globalization as a benign and bloodless process, Klein has more jolts in store.

The Canadian Klein is a columnist for The Nation and The Guardian and a former fellow at the London School of Economics. Her work on this, her third book, began in 2004, when she spent time in Iraq reporting on the reconstruction process for Harper's magazine. Her research is massive, meticulously documented and laid out in fluid, accessible and intriguing stories.

Doing Well by Doing Ill

Shashi Tharoor, Washington Post, November 25, 2007

If Thomas L. Friedman has acquired the reputation of being the English-speaking world's foremost cheerleader of globalization, Naomi Klein has established herself as its principal naysayer. With the publication seven years ago of No Logo, in the wake of the anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, Klein demonstrated that the "just do it" triumphalism of Nike and other global brands masked serious inequities and injustices. Her new book, The Shock Doctrine, takes the argument an important step further. Neoliberal capitalism, she argues, thrives on catastrophe: Not only are fortunes made from the misfortunes of the masses, but the global dominance of free-market capitalism is built on the infliction of disasters on the world's less fortunate.

Body Shock: A 40th Anniversary Conversation with Naomi Klein

Greg Grandin, NACLA, November/December 2007

Naomi Klein is a Canadian journalist and regular contributor to The Nation and the London Guardian. Beginning with No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (1999), Klein’s work has explored the two major forces that have shaped the post–Cold War world: the extension of radical free-market capitalism and, after 9/11, the resurgence of imperial militarism. More than just investigating the excesses, abuses, and popular resistances to neoliberalism and war, Klein’s journalism consistently links them, exploring how the corporate globalism of the Clinton years flowed seamlessly into the neoconservatives’ preemptive warfare doctrine. Latin America, the first region where neoliberalism was imposed and the first to produce a sustained resistance movement to it, has long been a central focus of Klein’s work, which includes, in addition to her writings, The Take, a 2004 documentary she produced with her husband, Avi Lewis, documenting the takeover of La Forja, a Buenos Aires auto plant, by its workers following Argentina’s 2002 economic meltdown. NACLA editorial committee member Greg Grandin interviewed Klein on the occasion of NACLA’s 40th anniversary.

Ms. Magazine Review: The Shock Doctrine

Ronnie Steinberg, Ms Magazine, Fall 2007

President Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex, but even he would be horrified by the Faustian bargain we see in today's neoliberal model of globalization. Not to be confused with the political liberalism of John Stuart Mill, neoliberalism is characterized by investigative reporter Naomi Klein as a "holy trinity" -- privatization, deregulation and cuts to social spending -- in which governments dismantle trade barriers, abandon public ownership, reduce taxes, eliminate the minimum wage, cut health and welfare spending, and privatize education. She calls the means of achieving this goal "disaster capitalism" and describes how it has resulted in a worldwide redistribution of income and wealth to the already rich at the expense of economic solvency for the middle and lower classes.

The New Road to Serfdom

Christopher Hayes, In These Times, November 9, 2007

In the early ’80s, as Margaret Thatcher attempted to hack away at England’s substantial public sector, she found a frustrating degree of public resistance. The closer she got to the bone, the more the patient wriggled and withdrew. Thatcher doggedly persisted, yet her pace wasn’t fast enough for right-wing Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek, her idol and ideological mentor. You see, in 1981, Hayek had traveled to Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s Chile, where, under the barbed restraints of dictatorship and with the guidance of University of Chicago-trained economists, Pinochet had gouged out nearly every vestige of the public sector, privatizing everything from utilities to the Chilean state pension program. Hayek returned gushing, and wrote Thatcher, urging her to follow Chile’s aggressive model more faithfully.

War, Terror, Catastrophe: Profiting From 'Disaster Capitalism'

Paul B. Farrell, Dow Jones Business News, October 16, 2007

Hot tip: Invest in "Disaster Capitalism." This new investment sector is the core of the emerging "new economy" that generates profits by feeding off other peoples' misery: Wars, terror attacks, natural catastrophes, poverty, trade sanctions, market crashes and all kinds of economic, financial and political disasters.

In this Orwellian future, everything must be seen with new eyes: "Disasters" are "IPOs," opportunities to buy into a new "company." Corporations like Lockheed-Martin are the real "emerging nations" of the world, not some dinky countries. They generate huge profits, grow earnings. And seen through the new rose-colored glasses of "Disaster Capitalism" they are hot investment opportunities.

To more fully grasp this new economy, you must read what may be the most important book on economics in the 21st century, Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, whose roots trace back the ideas of three 20th century giants:


Manuel Rivas, EL PAIS (Spain), October 13, 2007

The price of freedom

Johann Hari, New Statesman, October 11, 2007

How can Naomi Klein top No Logo, the most influential political polemic of the past 20 years? Her first book forensically studied the bloodstains that have splashed from the developing world's factories and "export processing zones" on to our cheap designer lives - and it spurred the creation of the anti-globalisation movement. Today, she has produced something even bolder: a major revisionist history of the world that Milton Friedman and the market fundamentalists have built. She takes the central myth of the right - that, since the fall of Soviet tyranny, free elections and free markets have skipped hand in hand together towards the shimmering sunset of history - and shown that it is, simply, a lie.

Turning Pain to Gain

Claire Black, Scotsman, October 6, 2007

Two years ago, sitting in a draughty, leaking industrial building in a suburb of Buenos Aires, I listened as a group of factory workers explained how they had "reclaimed" their former place of work after being laid off, casualties of the economic collapse of 2002. The factory was operational, there was a crèche, some shelves of dog-eared books for workers to borrow and, although the building was dilapidated, there was a palpable sense of pride.

Chaos is Good Business

Nicholas Jahr, Brooklyn Rail, October 2007

Like many people—at least, that’s what I tell myself these days—I wrote Naomi Klein off when she first appeared on the scene in the late 90s. There were too many earnest activists toting around No Logo, her surprise million-plus bestseller on the buzzword of that bygone day: “globalization.” Who could trust any book the New York Times called “a movement bible”? And that subtitle—Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. This hardly sounded like a staggering work of heart-racing analysis.


Joseph E. Stiglitz, New York Times, September 30, 2007

There are no accidents in the world as seen by Naomi Klein. The destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina expelled many poor black residents and allowed most of the city’s public schools to be replaced by privately run charter schools. The torture and killings under Gen. Augusto Pinochet in Chile and during Argentina’s military dictatorship were a way of breaking down resistance to the free market. The instability in Poland and Russia after the collapse of Communism and in Bolivia after the hyperinflation of the 1980s allowed the governments there to foist unpopular economic “shock therapy” on a resistant population. And then there is “Washington’s game plan for Iraq”: “Shock and terrorize the entire country, deliberately ruin its infrastructure, do nothing while its culture and history are ransacked, then make it all O.K. with an unlimited supply of cheap household appliances and imported junk food,” not to mention a strong stock market and private sector.

Naomi Klein on 'Disaster Capitalism'

Katie Rooney, TIME, September 27, 2007

In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein, best known for her 2000 book No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, explores how capitalism came to dominate the world, from Chile to Russia, China to Iraq, South Africa to Canada, with the help of violent shock tactics in times of natural disaster or tragedy. Released in the U.S. September 18 and throughout Europe and Canada the week before that, the book counters the theory that unfettered capitalism and a successful democracy go hand-in-hand. TIME sat down with Klein to discuss her conclusions, the research process and what kind of impact she's hoping her new book will have.

TIME: How did you come up with such a theory and what turned it into a book?

Klein Alleges U.S. Used 'Shock' Tactics to Privatize Public Sector

William S. Kowinski, San Francisco Chronicle, September 23, 2007

The connections are daring in journalist Naomi Klein's new book, "The Shock Doctrine," but the result is convincing. With a bold and brilliantly conceived thesis, skillfully and cogently threaded through more than 500 pages of trenchant writing, Klein may well have revealed the master narrative of our time. And because the pattern she exposes could govern our future as well, "The Shock Doctrine" could turn out to be among the most important books of the decade.

Every Catastrophe is an Opportunity

Nicolas Blincoe, The Telegraph, September 22, 2007

Anyone who wishes to know what our children will believe should read The Shock Doctrine. In many ways it is an old-fashioned book, almost 19th century in its scope and weight, but this is surely its strength. Naomi Klein brings a grand narrative sweep to the most troubling events of the past 60 years, placing them within a single epic drama.

She begins with a piece of scene-setting in the 1950s, where the American consumer boom is juxtaposed with the newly created CIA. So, in the domestic corner, we have the rise of asylums and electro-shock therapy, while, in the outside world, we have American agents screwing with regime change; as though One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest had been mixed with The Quiet American.
Jacket Cover