Three years ago, in a ground-breaking report for Harper's Magazine, Naomi Klein authored one of the definitive early statements of what precisely the Bush Administration hoped to accomplish in Iraq. The agenda, she wrote, was nothing less than the creation of "a gleaming showroom for laissez-faire economics, a utopia such as the world had never seen." Klein showed how the "shock and awe" of the invasion soon gave way to a version of economic shock therapy so severe that it helped spawn the guerrilla insurgency that continues today. Since that time, Klein has continued to report from war and disaster zones, from the Asian tsunami to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Along the way, Klein realized that a new economic sector was coming into being?she calls it "disaster capitalism"?the hallmark of which is the seizure of public assets for private profit, combined with the privatization of the response to the disaster itself.
Tracing the intellectual origins of disaster capitalism back fifty years to the doctrines of University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, her new book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, exposes a cycle of mutually reinforcing "shock therapies," drawing new and surprising connections between economic policy, "shock and awe" warfare, and covert CIA-funded experiments in electroshock and sensory deprivation in the 1950s, research that informs the torture manuals used today in Guant?namo Bay. Klein shows how the same techniques used to "soften up" and "break" prisoners are being used to reengineer entire societies. Her new essay, "Disaster Capitalism: The New Economy of Catastrophe," appears in the October issue of Harper's Magazine.
The Shock Doctrine is Naomi Klein's unofficial story of how the "free market" came to dominate the world, from Chile to Russia, China to Iraq, South Africa to Canada. Her new book explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically, and that unfettered capitalism goes hand in hand with democracy. Roger Hodge, a connoisseur of human wickedness, admires Klein's argument but wonders whether the logic of the new disaster economy, as compellingly frightening as it is, might not be an expression of something far older, and possibly more insidious, than capitalism.
photo of Naomi Klein by Andrew Stern
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About Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein is a journalist, syndicated columnist, and author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, which has been translated into twenty-eight languages. Klein writes a regular column for The Nation and The Guardian that is syndicated internationally by the New York Times Syndicate. A collection of her work, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate, was published in 2002. In 2004, she released The Take, a feature documentary about Argentina?s occupied factories, co-produced with director Avi Lewis. The film was an official selection of the Venice Biennale and won the Best Documentary Jury Prize at the American Film Institute Film Festival in Los Angeles. Klein?s forthcoming book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, will soon be published worldwide.
About Roger D. Hodge
Roger D. Hodge is the editor of Harper?s Magazine. He commissioned and edited Klein's 2004 essay, "Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in Pursuit of a Neocon Utopia," as well as her October 2007 cover story for Harper's, "Disaster Capitalism: The New Economy of Catastrophe."