Disaster capitalism

by Rob Horning

13 September 2007


Naomi Klein, of No Logo has a new book coming out, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Judging by the blurb, (and this well-made agitprop video, directed by Alfonso Cuaron) it seems a bit clever, in the manner of a new historicist cultural studies thesis: close reading disparate texts in unlikely juxtapositions to yield surprising analogies. Capitalism is really a post-traumatic stress disorder! Milton Friedman didn’t write economics; he wrote cleverly disguised torture manuals!These then reassure readers of their perceptiveness and (in this case) convince them that they are transcending the dirty business of capitalism through sheer intellect. (They are not the gullible citizens who are in a state of shock.)

Just because the connection can be made and parallels drawn doesn’t mean the argument has empirical force. And 9/11 aside, I am wary of the idea that the social body can collectively go into a susceptible state of shock. Also, Milton Friedman’s wanting to seize opportunities to force political change is not a doctrine limited to the free marketeers—it’s essentially a principle of instigating revolutions, seizing opportunity as Lenin and the bolsheviks did in October 1917.

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