Naomi Klein: The shock Doctrine

The Kassandra Project

Shock Talk

by Sandy Haksi (from


As Cool World’zens know, we’ve spent the last few months working on a campaign for The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by celebrated author and journalist Naomi Klein. Drawing on historical examples going back thirty years, the book attacks the idea that free markets and democracy always go hand-in-hand. In fact, what emerges in the aftermath of brutal economic shock therapy looks anything but, as public interests are shoved aside to make way for corporations and their cheerleaders. The Shock Doctrine documents a collusion between Big Government and Bigger Business poised to leap into disaster-stricken areas before the smoke clears and the shock wears off, and ram through agendas that would otherwise be untenable. Drawing together environmental, labour, social justice, and anti-war themes, The Shock Doctrine has resonated far and wide and continues its own phenomenally successful rise. It has reinvigorated us with a sense of hope and purpose and returned us to familiar territory, provoking in people the same reaction as The Corporation: what can I do?

As we’ve tried to launch the Campaign 4 Corporate Harm Reduction (C4CHR), we’ve struggled with this central question. The problem with fighting corporate misrule is it’s so wide-ranging and all-encompassing that it’s hard to narrow down to just one thing. It involves making legal and regulatory changes that can be enforced at a global level. It involves changing the nature of our political process to limit corporate influence and ensure governments are truly answerable to the people. And it involves changing ourselves and our culture to find the right balance between consumption and growth, so nobody starves but we don’t destroy the world with our appetites either.

It’s intimidating, isn’t it? That’s a lot of change to pull off yet our institutions are run by people who, by and large, are insulated from the system’s harms, if not outright benefactors. In some ways, it feels like we’re already in a state of shock, not by a single cataclysmic event, but numbed by the application of a thousand little jolts. The slow and steady erosion of safety nets, regulatory controls, media diversity, and democratic accountability has seen with it the soaring rise of corporations, environmental degradation, public infrastructure decay, conflict, and inequality. It’s overwhelming and increasingly normalized, tinging our resistance with a sense of frustration and fatalistic resignation. To turn things around, we’ll need to fight entrenched power and wealth that, let’s face it, has done a bang-up job of taking care of its own interests and convincing everyone it’s progress, at that. It’s been party time at Club Privilege and nobody’s rushing to join us in the line when the bubbly keeps topping up their glasses.

And quite frankly, who wants them to? Resources, rights, sovereignty: these aren’t perks to dole out as an act of charitable largesse. It’s our economy, our society, our planet. And let’s not forget the kicker. We don’t need them but they do need us.

We’ve always had the power; all we’ve lacked is cohesion, the ability to collectively implement our will. Sure we have differences, a lot of them. But we’re also united by a common sense of justice and a need to belong, to have a purpose and feel like we contribute. We know when something’s not fair, we know when people are being excluded, and we know it stinks. And that is where we want the C4CHR to begin.

We want to be a vehicle that can harness and channel that collectivity. There are a lot of great groups doing a lot of great work. We think the strength of our network lies in its ability to connect them and focus attention so our actions are magnified to their fullest potential. The ideas are getting out there and people don’t need to be convinced the world needs changing, but do need a way to unite. We don’t pretend to have all the answers but we know it will take numbers and will. If there’s one thing we’ve taken from the success of The Shock Doctrine campaign, it’s that we don’t need a crisis to happen before we find either.

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  1. michael

    i’m really glad i stumbled on you guys, and subbed to your newsletter. you write well, calmly and passionately, and definitely speak for me.

    thanks for what you do, and for so clearly explaining what i knew and felt, but had not yet expressed, let alone so well.

  2. Thanks a lot Michael, I’m glad that there are people like you who help me to proceed in this project.

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