Quote for Discussion: Jon Chait on Naomi Klein

For some time, I have wondered at the adulation towards Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” by people who I know and respect.  Finally, I’ve decided to brave it, and as I’m about halfway through, Jon Chait gives it a massive, ten page review.  He’s gentler on it than I am, but that doesn’t mean he’s nice to it.

Klein’s relentless materialism is not the only thing driving her to see conservatives merely as corporate puppets. … Her ignorance of the American right is on bright display in one breathtaking sentence:

“Only since the mid-nineties has the intellectual movement, led by the right-wing think-tanks with which [Milton] Friedman had long associations–Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute–called itself “neoconservative,” a worldview that has harnessed the full force of the U.S. military machine in the service of a corporate agenda.”

Where to begin? First, neoconservative ideology dates not from the 1990s but from the 1960s, and the label came into widespread use in the 1970s. Second, while neoconservatism is highly congenial to corporate interests, it is distinctly less so than other forms of conservatism. The original neocons, unlike traditional conservatives, did not reject the New Deal. … And their foreign policy often collides head-on with corporate interests: neoconservatives favor saber-rattling in places such as China or the Middle East, where American corporations frown on political risk, and favor open relations and increased trade. Moreover, the Heritage Foundation has always had an uneasy relationship with neoconservatism. … And the Cato Institute is not neoconservative at all. It was virulently opposed to the Iraq war in particular, and it opposes interventionism in foreign policy in general.

It ought to be morbidly embarrassing for a writer to discover that the central character of her narrative [Friedman] turns out to oppose what she identifies as the apotheosis of his own movement. And Klein’s mistake exposes the deeper flaw of her thesis. Friedman opposed the war because he was a libertarian, and libertarian conservatism is not the same thing as neoconservatism.

Emphasis added.

Seriously, do people really believe her when she says that Israel scuttled the peace process to benefit its anti-terrorism industry?  How the hell is this narrative even slightly believable?


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  1. …but this book… I’m sorry, but you either are being lied to and fooled, or you are willingly choosing to believe in stuff less plausible than the 9/11 Truthers.  I’m at the point where I’m willing to call Klein the leader of the new leftist anti-intellectualism.  Garbage that hates the same things you do is still garbage.

  2. John Chiat of the National Review? Chile? Neo-conservatives aren’t what they used to be heh? From Bill Kristals dad Irving an old school one.

    ‘Conservatism, Kristol complained, “is so influenced by business culture and by business modes of thinking that it lacks any political imagination, which has always been, I have to say, a property of the Left.” Kristol confessed to a deep yearning for an American empire: “What’s the point of being the greatest, most powerful nation in the world and not having an imperial role? It’s unheard of in human history. The most powerful nation always had an imperial role.” But, he continued, previous empires were not “capitalist democracies with a strong emphasis on economic growth and economic prosperity.” Because of its commitment to the free market, the United States lacked the fortitude and vision to wield imperial power. “It’s too bad,” Kristol lamented. “I think it would be natural for the United States…to play a far more dominant role in world affairs. Not what we’re doing now but to command and to give orders as to what is to be done. People need that. There are many parts of the world-Africa in particular-where an authority willing to use troops can make a very good difference, a healthy difference.’ 1973 Irving Kristol

    So i guess the next round of neocons just combined this vision with that of the military/industrial/corporatists  and formed their new world order along with the free market crowd so all their dreams/ends were met. Money power and world dominance.

    On Milton fried man from his own mouth:

    He said that he was a libertarian philosophically, but a member of the U.S. Republican Party for the sake of “expediency” (“I am a libertarian with a small ‘l’ and a Republican with a capital ‘R.’ And I am a Republican with a capital ‘R’ on grounds of expediency, not on principle.”)

    On Chile

    ‘Friedman defended his role in Chile on the grounds that, in his opinion, the move towards open market policies not only improved the economic situation in Chile but also contributed to the softening of Pinochet’s rule and to the eventual transition to a democratic government in 1990. That idea followed from Capitalism and Freedom, in which he declared that economic freedom is not only desirable in itself but is also a necessary condition for political freedom. He stressed that the lectures he gave in Chile were the same lectures he later gave in China and other socialist states.[41] In the 2000 PBS documentary The Commanding Heights, Friedman continued to claim that criticism over his role in Chile missed his main point that freer markets led to freer people, and that Chile’s unfree economy had led to the military government. Friedman argued that the economic liberalization he advocated led to the end of military rule and a free Chile.’

    all of which leads me to conclude a pigs a pig no matter what they choose to call themselves. The Cato Institute seems a mixed bag but has really strange bedfellows. Liberatians like any other think tank seem removed from the havoc they reek on the real world and the people who inhabit it. Worse the ‘economists theorize and take no responsibility for the moral concequences politically when these market theories that equate capitalism with freedom are used as Friedmans where to spread misery and death in the name of free. Real people  become mere pawns in their divorced from reality reshaping of the world to fit their theoretical, soulless pseudo science.  

    Naomi Kliens credibility soars when compared with the advisers to Nixon, Pinochet and Raegan. Libertarians may be largly against waging wars, but seem to have difficulty recognising that the economic extremism they advocate is as deadly to freedom as bomd and dictators.        

    • TomP on July 21, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Friedemann is a market fundamentalist and that is what she is talking about.  Chait ignores the substance for a semantic game.  Klein makes excellent points about Freidemann and the use of shocks to force extreme market fundamentalism on societies.  

    The Shock Doctrine by Alfonso Cuarón and Naomi Klein

    DIRECTED BY JONÁS CUARÓN. Alfonso Cuarón, director of “Children of Men”, and Naomi Klein, author of “No Logo”, present a short film from Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.”

    • k9disc on July 22, 2008 at 8:34 am

    It’s intuitive v sensing (I think…) via the Meyer’s Brigg’s structure.

    Jay, you and I have had our arguments several times, and I’m sure I make you as crazy as you make me. It’s because we see things entirely differently.

    I’ve not read Klein’s book, but looking at the quote that Chait describes, it seems to me as if she’s talking about when the Neo-Cons started calling themselves Neo-cons, or possibly when the term hit the mainstream political lexicon.

    I highly doubt the rest of her book states that neo-cons came to being in the 1990s, if it focused on Neocons at all, my guess is it would not have that much to do with the neo-con movement other than the expression that so many of us who have been paying attention since the fall of the USSR  have seen.

    The Clean Break etc. I believe it was a clean break with anti-communists.

    Until that point the Neo-cons were really just plain ol’ anti-commies in practice, even though they might have been Kristol kids, and called themselves neo-cons before that.

    They were much harder to separate from the mainstream Cons before the fall of the Evil Empire. Not only that, but their political machinations seemed to be a bit more radical given the lack of an Other to organize society against.

    The Shock of the fall of the USSR, I believe took them by surprise and changed the nature of their business.

    I use CATO and AEI rather interchangeably as archetypes for the Conservative Think Tank movement in general.

    You may call that anti-intellectual thinking, I call it being bogged down in details.

    I don’t remember the crawl under every suit that shilled for the war in terms of AEI, CATO, CEI or whatever acronym they wear, I just remember the flavor of their politics – free-marketeers and warmongers.

    To jump back to the bigger picture about you and the book, I’d have given you the advice to not read it knowing your penchant for detail.

    I’d tell most libertarians to not read it, as I’ve been involved in that argument thousands of times, and there’s too much of a disconnect between world views to be bridged in a one way dialogue that you get in reading a book.

    Hell it’s nearly impossible to do in a stimulating, calm conversation.

    I think your big issue with the book is that you have problems with the big picture, and before you get all pissed off, just know that people like me have problems with the details. It’s just not a comfy format for me to deal with.

    I read a detail heavy piece and I can’t stay on track because the big picture is totally ignored.

    You read a big picture piece and can’t ignore the inattention to details.

    Each situation challenges us to get out of our comfort zone. Because both of us do so much thinking and writing, it’s very difficult step outside of our strength and activate our weaker mode of thought.

    I hope I have not pissed you off or offended you.



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