I don’t think I can praise Melanie Klein’s, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, highly enough. It has become a best-seller, deservedly so, so by now many people have encountered it. For those who have not yet, I think it would be well worth tracking down.
This one book has done more for my understanding of our current world crises than any other five books I could think of. Klein describes the evolution of global capitalism over the past generation, linking together the devastation of the southern cone of Latin America in the 1970s, the enormous disappointments following the ending of apartheid in South Africa and the reign of communism in Eastern Europe in the 1990s and since, and the disaster of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the 21st century (plus numerous other cases).
She coins the term “disaster capitalism” to characterize how the widespread social disorientation following massive collective shocks (wars, major “natural disasters,” radical political change) is exploited by corporate leaders and their political and military allies to shift wealth in massive ways from the public sector to select powers in the private sector–with resultant widespread social dislocations and misery.
She helps us connect the dots–how the immense suffering following the rise of dictatorships such as the Pinochet regime in Chile, the immense increase in poverty and loss of safety nets in Eastern Europe, the heightening of social stratification in post-apartheid South Africa, the almost unbelievable failures of the U.S. policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and New Orleans, are none of them accidental but, essentially, consequences of deliberate actions by people in power to transfer wealth into the hands of select corporations and their beneficiaries.
As Klein has demonstrated in her earlier work (including her extraordinarily perceptive book, No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs ), she is able to combine analytical rigor, a thoroughly progressive and humane political philosophy, and an engaging ability to tell a story. She gives the human side of these difficult issues, but not at the expense of macro-analysis. This is to say, her writing is solid and substantial, but admirably accessible and concrete. She possesses distinctive gifts.
For people of faith, a book such as The Shock Doctrine should light a fire under our efforts to embody Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor. Klein, to her credit, does not simply analyze and critique (though these are where her greatest contributions lie), she also tries to point toward solutions and empower her readers to seek to resist and transform. The task is enormous, but to move toward healing we much have at least some sense of the nature of the problems we face. This book, better than any other I am aware of that addresses our current scence, helps us understand.