“The Shock Doctrine”

What follows is not news, but it is still quite difficult to see it quite so plainly.  Paul Krugman describes Naomi Klein’s analysis to the Wisconsin situation and, by implication, beyond:

Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine” …argued that [there was] a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display …

What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside..

That this is happening in my country and others closely allied to it makes me feel heartsick. It is bad to think the country is in the grip of incompetents who cannot make good choices, but much worse, I think, to think that the suffering of so many living with the consequences is actually a foreseen consequence of a fully intended plan.

With what confidence would you apply this to the UK?

16 thoughts on ““The Shock Doctrine”

  1. As rahm emmanuel said,never let a good crisis go to waste. How much “power” did the obama administraion grab during the crisis?

  2. In the case of Scott Walker and Wisconsin, the crisis is self-described. Walker didn’t start intoning “we’re broke” until after he had pushed through a series of corporate tax cuts. Nor did he. contrary to some of his recent remarks, run on a platform of union-busting. A search of his campaign remarks reveals no such intention. Shock, indeed, to all of us.

  3. The UK has a long history (continuing to this day) of this business and related matters.

    The American and British empires often create crises to exploit if the crises do not already exist or come about in other ways.

    Here’s just one recent news piece:

    Cameron attacked for Egypt visit with defence sales team in tow


  4. Associating from my comment #3 above, if not already, you might also want to read this recent piece (sadly, there are actually so many more…):

    We all helped suppress the Egyptians. So how do we change?

    Very few British people would beat up a poor person to get cheaper petrol. But our governments do it all the time. Why?


  5. There’s no doubt it applies to the UK. The university funding policies are a particularly clear illustration. They’ll actually make the deficit worse: the government provides the student loans to cover what will be hugely increased costs. And it’s far from clear that they’ll ever make it back– the calculations supposedly showing that they’d be able to (a) assumed universities would only raise fees to 6000, which would not allow them to break even; (b) assumed the average *male* graduate income, which is of course higher than the average graduate income.

    So it’s very clearly ideology not the economy driving this,

  6. I don’t understand how the costs will be increased. At present, the cost for each student is a combination of (i) HEFCE grant, and (ii) student loan. Both come from the government. The new tuition fees involve abolishing (i), and increasing (ii) to cover (i). So to break even, the new student loan should be equal to (i) plus (ii), which means the Govt putting up the same amount of money as before. Only now, they’ll be potentially getting back not just the cost of (ii), but also the cost of (i) from the earning graduate. Even if they don’t get the total amount of (i) and (ii) back from every graduate, they’ll presumably get more than they do at present. Or at least, that was the assumption.

    Sorry, this is tangentially related to the post. But I’m utterly baffled as to what is Going On.

    On a more related note, I also find claims about ideology made in this sort of context confusing. If ideology is a set of beliefs setting out values and ideas about how to realise them, then won’t every action be ‘driven by ideology’, as doing anything requires a value to aim for, and a belief about how to achieve it?

  7. Fair enough point about ideology: all I meant was that it’s not actually purely financially motivated.

    Now about the money: The total of current (i) plus (ii) is something like 7300. But the government has decreed that anyone who charges more than 6000 has to put in place additional and costly measures to increase access. So anyone who wants to break even will have to pay for these additional measures as well, which apparently will push fees above 8000. So the government will have to put out more. They’ve also increased the threshold at which repayment starts, which means they’ll get paid back slower. I’ve heard that most people will never pay off their loans.

  8. This seems to be going on in the Netherlands as well. The new plans are: cuts on arts and culture, cuts on higher education, cuts on special education for handicapped children, cuts on welfare for single mothers with young children, cuts on the budget for nature. This all is sold as necessary because of the crisis. ‘We all have to take responsibility’ is a favourite slogan….. In the meantime they have no plans to cut outrageous bonuses of outrageouly well paid business men or to do something about the fact that people who own a house (this includes the very rich) can deduct their monthly mortgage interest from their taxes……They steal from the poor and give to the rich, to put it plainly….and use the crisis as an excuse…when it was not even the single mums, students or handicapped children who caused this crisis in the first place…..(at the same time they are planning to raise the maximally allowed speed on highways which is damaging to everything and everyone except to people who own fast cars and like to speed….which is a clear sign of what the agenda actually is).

  9. Jender – reflecting on ideology at lunchtime, I could see what you meant.

    Oh I see – now I understand the fees mess. *face, palm* Isn’t it the gvt’s job amongst other things, to check facts and figures before making plans?

  10. …I forgot to mention that the coalition parties start to flirt with the extreme Christian party now because they might need their support against the opposition. This is a small party but possibly with a crucial vote that does not allow women in government because according to them Adam was created first. The flirt has started by discussing limits to allowing abortion (which is, still, legal over here luckily).

  11. indeed. i wonder how it is that people saw the shock doctrine wreak such havoc in south america and then thought, you know, we should bring that home!

  12. The answer seems sadly simple (even if debatable), as Louise Chanarý’s comment #9 above helpfully describes. Roughly, actions, practices, and policies (often justified/rationalized by various ideologies about the justice, ethics, and pragmatics of fake capitalism and fake free trade, for instance) keep wealthy and powerful many wealthy and powerful individuals, corporations, and countries at the expense of harming and keeping deeply impoverished and vulnerable many of the most impoverished and vulnerable individuals, businesses, and countries. The ideology of the (alleged) virtues of capitalism, free trade, and liberal modern democracies that do not pursue socialist goals and that do not secure equal (democratic, or civil and political, or economic, social, and cultural) rights for women and men roughly serves social functions that keep the rich rich and the poor poor (or, in the case of other – though related – ideologies, social functions that benefit men and harm women). Just read Marx. Or Thomas Pogge. Or Catharine MacKinnon.

    The majority of the people who keep such systems going and who serve the roles in such social functions are not conscious of these alleged roles and functions – roughly because they believe the relevant/supporting ideologies. In the case of women and men, think of common assumptions about gender stereotypes, for instance. Most people internalize and maintain confused if not false beliefs about the ideologies and/or the stereotypes that harm themselves and/or large numbers of people (while benefiting and empowering others…). In addition to Pogge and MacKinnon, I especially like/recommend Sandra Bartky and Noam Chomsky on these and related matters.

Comments are closed.