Friday, August 27, 2010

Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Last winter, I was sitting on the GO train, tired & sleepy as usual, when an interesting commotion erupted a few aisles away from me. The fight occurred between two individuals who clearly didn't know each other: a young woman decked out in a beautiful Burberry raincoat and the elderly man sitting beside her. The woman clearly spent her afternoon in Yorkville, surrounded by shiny Holt Renfrew shopping bags. For the next fifteen minutes, Elderly Man continuously wagged a finger in front of Burberry's face, accusing her of supporting the capitalist enterprise. Before he got off the train, Elderly Man stepped over the Holt Renfrew bags and announced that Burberry should head to Chapters and spend some good money on a book he thought she should read: Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

While Burberry rolled her eyes at the suggestion, I curiously filed the book title away in my head with the intention of looking it up later. Lo and behold, a few weeks ago, while browsing the aisles at Chapters, I discovered and purchased The Shock Doctrine after finding it discarded on an empty shelf. I started reading it this week on the train ride to and from work. To spare you all a long, winded summary, click here to read Wikipedia's ever-so-trusty synopsis.

Right away, I knew from the first chapter that I would be very skeptical about the premise of the book. Don't get me wrong, I highly respect Naomi Klein as a reputable, respectable source. However, I think critiques of The Shock Doctrine holds some (alot of?) merit.

I think my problem lies in her treatment of capitalism as an evil plot, a formulated scheme of treachery borne only in the minds of those in power. The book treats the capitalist enterprise as a huge conspiracy, an alliance between governments and corporations to shock a population into the realities of a free market economy. Her elaborate parallels between the uses of electroshock therapy to free-market policies leave me skeptical. Is capitalism in its purest form truly evil? In a Western world run rampant with consumerism, are the individuals who personally desire material wealth subsequently (automatically) accomplices to corporate greed? Are supporters of capitalism and material wealth evil? Alternatively, what would be a better option?

Personally, I don't think capitalism is as inherently evil as Klein seems to imply. Nor do I think support for material gains is inherently selfish. I have yet to finish the book, so I'll hold off writing a review. Who knows, perhaps my opinion may change by the time I finish it. Either way, it is an interesting read. I definitely recommend you all to check it out. I thought I'd share this book with you all, as reading it can definitely helps us uncover our true feelings (loyalities? hatred?) about the realities of today's consumerism.

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”
- Sir Winston Churchill

“What kind of society isn't structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system.”
- Milton Friedman

“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”
- John Maynard Keynes

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