Monday, 10 August 2009

Uncertainty principle: fisking Klein (1)

Klein's Shock Doctrine book is the new poster child of the Left but it is a weakly-argued polemic taking readers down a dangerous blind alley. It would likely take many days to pick apart her mistakes so I'll detail them in error-themes. The first is context.

+ Klein provides no context for her theory, preferring instead to cherry-pick to fit the thesis. She appears to have decided her thesis -- likely after thinking about George Bush and Iraq -- then carefully chosen events over the last few decades to back it up.

A fair-minded historian would point to many more events in recent decades that do not fit the Klein's theory. My belief is Klein's ideas are almost laughably crude and rely on evasive writing and selective history to make any kind of sense.


1) Her claims about a nightmarish "corporatist state" rising make no sense if one remembers that we have actually had a corporatist state solutions, and this was 40 years ago. The influence of the monolithic corporate is actually less today than it was then.

2) Her claims about the terrible roll-back of the state, designed by Friedman's evil genius, needs to be put into historical context. Through the course of the 20th Century, the state hugely increased in size in all Western countries, and this continued in the second half of the century, ie during the 50 year (or 30 year, NK claims both) campaign waged by Friedman.

In the UK, chosen by Klein as one of the countries where the SD has been applied, public spending did not drop throughout the 1980s and increased by the end of the 1990s into the 2000s. How does that fit the theory?


3) Financial capitalism has exploded in size and significance over the last 30 years, leading up to the credit boom and crunch of the first decade of the millennium. Does Klein's thesis engage with this process?

4) The recent experience of Venezuela, as well as the earlier Cuban revolution and elsewhere, show that violent revolutionary politics was commonplace in South America in the latter half of the 20th Century. It is curious that Klein does not seek to make contextualise Chile in the 1970s.

5) Klein also fails to contextualise Thatcher's decision to smash socialism in the 1980s. Thatcher was a right wing leader of a party previously ejected from power after coal miners went on strike (Heath, 1973). This fact provides some useful context on why Thatcher went after coal miners in the 1980s. It is again a failure of Klein's perspective she chooses not to mention this, instead focusing on the Falklands War that does fit the thesis.

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