• Review of Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine - The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" By Doug Henwood in Left Business Observer

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 • Review of Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine - The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" By Doug Henwood in Left Business Observer

Posted by youngmarxist at 2008-04-29 03:12 AM
Left Business Observer has a critical review of Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine - The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" by Doug Henwood:

Naomi Klein made herself deservedly famous with No Logo, whose official U.S. publication date of January 15, 2000, was just weeks after the popular hijacking of the WTO summit in Seattle. Not only was it well-timed, it was notable for moving beyond the usual critiques of consumption that had been staples of what was then called the antiglobalization movement and into the neglected world of production. It was a comprehensive look at the economic world of the time that helped energize a movement and deepen its understanding of the world.

Seven years later comes The Shock Doctrine, an even more ambitious book that aims to provide, in blurber Arundhati Roy’s words, “nothing less than the secret history of what we call the ‘free market.’” Although one should never look to jacket blurbs for measured evaluations, there’s really little that’s secret about this history, and Klein’s organizing “shock” metaphor explains nowhere near as much of the world we live in as she thinks it does.

For a book this long, there’s little history from before 1970. Klein cites Stephen Kinzer’s history of U.S. interventions—often based on tight government links to corporate interests—going back to 1893, but she quickly returns to the rapidly fading present of Bush and Cheney. There’s little doubt that there’s something different about this gang—a little more primitive in thought and style—but there’s one prominent missing case: Lyndon Johnson, who engineered the killing of something like a million Indochinese.

Poor LBJ is woefully underrepresented in the book; he doesn’t even merit an index entry. Klein writes at length about Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), which from 1998 to 2007 was a subsidiary of Cheney’s notorious plaything Halliburton. KBR’s predecessor, Brown & Root (B&R), was practically created by federal contracts steered its way by Johnson, from his days in Congress to his days in the White House. B&R returned the favor by financing LBJ’s campaigns for higher office. B&R got fat contracts to build the war infrastructure in Vietnam, complete with scandalous overcharges. (GIs in Vietnam called the company “Burn & Loot.”) B&R built the infamous tiger cages used to torture Vietcong prisoners. It was the first time the U.S. military had contracted out for services formerly performed by soldiers. In other words, George Bush has many predecessors—some of them Democrats even.

The effect of setting the starting clock on history so recently is to make the present seem far more extraordinary than it is. Compounding that problem is the central role that “shock” and “disaster” play in the narrative. By so emphasizing “shock”—and so much of that shock being extreme repression and torture—Klein skirts the difficult question of how the right developed enough popular consent and legitimation to win election and re-election, sometimes in landslides. The Morning in America election of 1984 was about an exhilarating boom. Though the boom was uneven and crazy, and came after a deep recession, it was real enough to be believed by enough people to keep the story going.

As do many partisans of the global justice movement, Klein exhibits a nostalgia for the Keyensian welfare state model that prevailed in many rich countries in the decades following World War II. That model had a counterpart, roughly over the same period, in Latin America in the import-substitution model, in which tariffs and other import restrictions were used to protect local industries in the hope they’d develop.

Import substitution had its successes, for sure, but they were fairly limited. The regimes that practiced it were often corrupt and repressive, with deep ties between protected industrialists and their political patrons, and the products of these coddled industries were often shoddy and expensive. There’s no doubt that successful development requires some kinds of “protection,” but it’s hard to do it deftly.

And the victims of Pinochet and Argentine junta were rebels against that very model of capitalism. At first, the military dictatorships of Latin America weren’t trying to impose neoliberalism—they were trying to defend the system of private property against a variety of populists, socialists, and communists.

Using words like “Friedmanite” and “neoliberalism” is a way to avoid talking about capitalism in any systemic fashion. When Klein does address systemic issues, she professes that she’s not anticapitalist, but prefers a form of managed or welfare capitalism. It would be sectarian to say that managed or welfare capitalism isn’t better than what we’ve got now; it most certainly would be, especially in the U.S., where a single-payer healthcare system seems almost like a revolutionary impossibility. But it would be naive to think that we could get there without a political upsurge demanding an even more radical renovation, and evasive to deny that exploitation wouldn’t still exist under a regulated capitalism.

 • Re: Review of Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine - The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" By Doug Henwood in Left Business Observer

Posted by DavidMc at 2008-04-29 06:24 PM
Here is a useful link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shock_Doctrine

I think it is important for a genuine left to give critical support to neo-liberalism against big government.

Here is an extract from THE ECONOMICS OF SOCIAL OWNERSHIP which I think is relevent:

Government failure

Another way that the price system is broken under capitalism is through the heavy hand of government. A range of actions distort prices and in other ways prevent resources being put to their most valued use. Economist call this "government failure" when countering those who justify government actions as a response to "market failure". 

Vested or sectional interests, such as workers or capitalists in a particular industry, are able to pressure government into taking measures that benefit them but harm everyone else. This is a difficult problem to deal with because the benefits are concentrated while the costs are dispersed.

Then there are the reformers, "liberals" and "leftists" who have been able to push through a statist agenda over the last century of so. This has resulted, among other things, in government monopolies, regulated labor markets and bureaucratic provision of services such as healthcare and education. It has been driven by a desire to defend capitalism by presenting workers with a bogus alternative to real radical change.

We also have bureaucrats raising the cost of doing business or even preventing people from doing business altogether. This makes work for themselves and is also supported by the prevailing green anti-industry malaise.

Conservatives or classical liberals try to wash their hands of all these problems.  However, they are endogenous to capitalism. They are inherent to the system and not external or exogenous impositions. Capitalists will always try and get the government to protect their property rights.  Likewise, workers, including bureaucrats, will want to protect their jobs under conditions of income insecurity and limited ability to adapt. And the system breeds people who want to protect it by "reforming" it or by blaming  "industrial society" for the alienating conditions of capitalism.

Social ownership is really the only way of eliminating big government. Activities that in capitalist countries tend to be highly politicized, such as education, health care and infrastructure, will have to seek funding from independent and "apolitical," results-orientated funding bodies. And there will be minimal regulation as producers, in consultation with users, can generally work out their own formal and informal codes of practice and act in accord with the general interest.

Also check out following section from Bright Future

Africa: More Capitalism Please