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The Review Man

Formerly of Goodreads, now of both words, in the coming times only here?

Currently reading

Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood
Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals
Robert M. Pirsig
Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism)
Jean Baudrillard, Sheila Faria Glaser
Leaven of Malice
Robertson Davies
The Salterton Trilogy
Robertson Davies
Effi Briest (Penguin Classics)
Theodor Fontane
Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World
Nicholas Ostler
Cases And Materials On The Law Of Torts
Robert M. Solomon
Public Law : Cases Materials and Commentary
Philip Bryden, Craik, Neil, Craig Forcese, Forcese, Craig
A Property Law Reader
Bruce H. Ziff
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism - Naomi Klein Klein spins an interesting yarn about the connection between capitalism, neoliberal politics and torture. Whether some of the details are true is up for discussion. Whether her thesis is an indictment of "disaster capitalism" or of plain old human nature is another big question.

The connection between neoliberalism and free-market capitalism hardly seems disputable. We saw it in Chile with the Chicago School, we saw it in American foreign policy at the dawn of the 21st century. As for the use of political "shocks" to bring about change—that's basically common sense. People use times of upheavel to effect change.

But the whole torture thing is hardly confined to the capitalists' camp. Everybody tortures everybody else. It's silly to insist that torture is somehow exclusive to capitalists. To be fair, Klein's not arguing that. But neither is it fair to blame capitalists for torture while conveniently ignoring everybody else. (Again, Klein doesn't ignore the other side, but she hardly devotes enought ime to it.)

Sure, there might be a link between political upheaval, laissez-faire capitalism and torture, but anybody with a decent knowledge of 20th-century history could easily write a book connecting political upheaval, Communist ecomonimic policy and torture. Klein's accusations are oddly non-specific for her to be pointing the finger exclusively at disaster capitalism. And when she really digs in and starts lobbing grenades, the attentive reader is forced to take a step back and double-check all of her research. It's easy to twist the facts to fit a particular narrative, and readers who want to make any sense out of this story will need to play Editor with Klein's book.

It's not all bad. After all, Klein has a point. But her point is just too unscientific: if she wanted to show conclusively that disaster capitalism is solely at fault, should she not have also established the innocence of all other parties? Saying "disaster capitalism is evil" does not necessarily imply that globalization and socialist economics are saintly and virtuous. Finding the truth with the help of The Shock Doctrine is a bit of a balancing act. At least Klein got us up to the rafters.