The Economics of Trauma: Naomi Klein on “Disaster Capitalism,” #3 of 3


This is the last of three posts addressing Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.  Below is an entry I made in my philosophical journal last fall, on the date indicated.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Klein, p. 518:  “Katrina was a tragedy, but, as Milton Friedman wrote in his Wall Street Journal op-ed, it was ‘also an opportunity.’ ”  Compare John McCain after 9/11.   [McCain viewed “9/11” as just such an “opportunity”–namely, to settle the score with what he took to be the United States’ enemies, using the umbrella of protecting the U. S. against “terrorism” to cover the operation of wilfully launching supposedly pre-emptive wars and the like.   Although perhaps not quite in the wide-open way McCain himself would have done it,  that was pretty much just what the Bush administration did, of course.] 

[Compare, as well, Michel] Henry, Du communisme au capitalisme, p.211:  We today are

subjected to the most extraordinary censorship that has ever existed.  For in the time of the king of Prussia, of Stalin, or of Hitler, at least one knew that there was censorship, while today, under the reign of freedom, one no longer knows that.  Thus does the formidable ideological conditioning of the totality of society accomplish itself at each instant, in the bombardment of the media and publicity which imposes on everyone the quasi-totality of one’s mental contents, even to one’s desires and fantasies, in everyone, even infants, without criticism, without any power to contest it having the possibility to manifest even its simple existence.


Klein, p. 522:  “Not so long ago, disasters were periods of social leveling, rare moments when atomized communities put divisions aside and pulled together.  Increasingly, however, disasters are the  opposite:  they provides windows into a cruel and ruthlessly divided future in which money and race buy survival.”


Pp. 540-541:

Given the boiling temperatures, both climatic and political, future disasters need not be cooked up in dark conspiracies [because they have now been built into the economic system itself–compare the current financial/credit crisis].  All indications are that simply staying the current course, they will keep coming with ever more ferocious intensity.  Disaster generation can therefore be left to the market’s invisible hand.  This is one area in which it actually delivers. . . . [A] new consensus is emerging.  It is not that the market has become immune to instability, at least not exactly.  It is that a steady flow of disasters is now so expected that the ever-adaptable market has changed to fit this new status quo–instability is the new stability.

Above all, [I’d say this can be seen in] the emergence and installation of the global surveillance-security corporate private industry.


Pp. 585-586:  “All shock therapists [in the negative sense of disaster capitalism] are intent on the erasure of memory. . . . Memory, both individual and collective, turns out to be the greatest shock absorber of all.”

Klein ends her book with accounts of how some natural-disaster survivors have taken reconstruction (i.e., recovery) into  their own hands–to learn, as one Katrina victim puts it (p. 586), “to say, ‘What can we do right now to start to bring our neighborhoods back in spite of the government [and its “shock therapists”], not because of it?’ ”

Pp. 588-589:

Uniting all  these examples of people rebuilding for themselves is a common theme:  participants say they are not just repairing buildings but healing themselves.  It makes perfect sense.  The universal experience of living through a great shock is the feeling of being completely powerless in the face of awesome forces. . . . The best way to recover from helplessness turns out to be helping–having the right to part of a common recovery.

That is the principle of AA and for recovery from addiction, as well, it is worth noting.  As Klein sees, that points to the way out.

“I passed by again, they were not there.”

“Like a dream one wakes from, oh Lord, when you wake you dismiss them as phantoms.”


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