Monday, 22 February 2016

Brief Notes: Shock Doctrine

In Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein argues that the success of capitalism in the past decade is the result of long-term intellectual planning. Manipulating natural disasters, like tsunamis, or manufacturing a catastrophe, like the invasion of Iraq, has allowed venture capitalists to dominate both economic theory and the processes of government.

The same concern is expressed by Adam Curtis in his films. Capitalism, in its current expansive mood, has taken advantage of dramatic situations to impress its values on populations around the world. 

In the 1970s, philosophers of the free-market, despite having about as much credibility as Boris Johnson in Liverpool, developed their ideas outside of the mainstream. When Thatcher gained power at the end of the 1970s, she had a ready-made philosophy to apply to the state. 

After 9/11, this model was accelerated. The 'War on Terror', by Klein's analysis, is an excuse for a 'war on social services'. 

You know that I am going to say Diderot did this first.

The 'shock doctrine' - in which the intellectual foundation is developed in the wilderness, before coming of age in a time of chaos - is exactly how the philosophes shifted French society from serfdom to bourgeois revolution. Then the Bolsheviks did it: thanks to the First World War, they applied Marx to the existing revolution, and grabbed Russia by the balls.

The balls, in this case, being the state apparatus. 

I'm not qualified to develop this argument: I'd be simply copying Klein, anyway. There must be other factors, but the idea of philosophers providing the engine for change intrigues me (even as I watch the growth of consumerism with despair). 

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