Why Shock Doctrine is a really bad book

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Jonathan Chait has a good dissection of how Naomi Klein went from being wrong about Starbucks and the WTO to being really wrong about Pinochet, Iraq, and ethnic conflict.

Rather than re-think the economicist premises of her recent radicalism, she set out to synthesize her old worldview with the post-9/11 world. “I felt it emotionally,” she told The New York Times, “before I understood it factually.” Doggedly connecting the dots, she discovered that the Iraq war was–guess what?–part of the same economic tissue that connected Nike and the World Trade Organization…

The Shock Doctrine has a single, uncomplicated explanation for everything that ails us. It identifies the fundamental driving force of the last three decades to be the worldwide spread of free-market absolutism as it was formulated by Milton Friedman and the department of economics at the University of Chicago…

The notion that crises create fertile terrain for political change, far from being a ghoulish doctrine unique to free-market radicals, is a banal and ideologically universal fact. (Indeed, it began its dubious modern career in the orbit of Marxism, where it was known as “sharpening the contradictions.”) Entrenched interests and public opinion tend to run against sweeping reform, good or bad, during times of peace and prosperity. Liberals could not have enacted the New Deal without the Great Depression…

She is conscientious enough to provide readers with facts that blow her thesis to smithereens, yet at the same time she is deluded enough not to notice the rubble of her thinking on the floor…

Naomi Klein’s relentless lumping together of all her ideological adversaries in the service of a monocausal theory of the world ultimately renders her analysis perfect nonsense.

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One Response to “Why Shock Doctrine is a really bad book”

  1. Emmanuel Says:

    Jonathan, this is a great find. The TNR criticizing Klein and being spot-on is something to behold.

    Another thing that occurred to me when I saw a “Shock Doctrine” hoarding in a London subway was how commercialized the book was. Its publisher here in Britain is Penguin. The parent company of Penguin is the media giant Pearson. Among the titles Pearson publishes is, gasp, the Financial Times! In effect, sales of Klein’s book profit the evil corporations she rants about all the time. Talk about being a traitor to the cause.

    If Klein was a respectable lefty in our day and age, then she would publish the thing on the Internet for free instead of enriching some big media company. While anti-globalization may not amount to much, I must admit that it is a good marketing ploy. (I should post something more on this soon.)

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