Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"The Shock Doctrine" by Alfonso Cuarón and Naomi Klein

Provocative and interesting short film about "disaster capitalism" by the director of "Children of Men" and the author of "No Logo."

What do you think about the ideas presented in the film?

For a full text article on disaster capitalism by Naomi Klein, click here:
Klein, "The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" (The Nation Magazine)

To visit Klein's "Shock Doctrine website, click here:
Shock Doctrine website


  1. The ultimate moral of this clip-- "the best way to resist shock is to know what is happening to you and why"--is well worth taking to heart. In fact, it's worth recognizing that the video itself is shocking, and it should be watched with an awareness of its own manipulative strategies.

    I like the aesthetic of the clip, and I appreciate the perspective they are airing. It is horrible that governments opportunistically capitalize on disaster to advance policy. But I have trouble ignoring the likely reactions of unsympathetic viewers. I am still uncertain as to whether I think this approach, (like Michael Moore's) nets a positive result, or if it simply plays into divisiveness.

    Furthermore, I am really turned off by metaphors that try to map individual behavior into societal behavior. I don't think there's very much in common between torture shock and post-disaster-shock, beyond a very simplistic "opportunity" that is available after each.

    I also ought to own up to being in a "Liberaltarian" frame of mind this month, having just read the Undercover Economist. I am extremely skeptical of a lot of the simple economic factoids layered over the shock montage. I also reject the statement "This is the secret history of the free market. It wasn't born in freedom and democracy. It was born in shock." That's just drama to fit in with the narrative agenda of the clip.

    There's no doubt that many advocates of the free market often have anti-humanist goals in mind, and we've had our share of deregulation disasters like Enron that need to be wielded against dogmatic free market theory. But we've also seen in the 20th century that giving government the reins instead is not more likely to result in the society I want to inhabit. They rail on China becoming the "sweatshop to the world," but who can argue that things were better under Maoism? Those old dualisms are defunct. What's the way forward?

    Thanks for the stimulating post!

  2. I think you hit the main point at the end... "what is the way forward"? What is the alterative? What would a new society actually look like in real terms? How do we define it, conceptualize it, and then share that conception with others in a way that is compelling? Progressives, in particular, need to answer these questions because idealsim can so easily turn to cynicism and to disconnection... Knowing what is happening and why is simply a prerequisite to coming up with solutions. By seeing the world we inhabit clearly, by identifying the problems as they really are, not as they are distorted, we are hopefully better able to consider ways that we might live which might meet the fully range of human need. If we just bitch about what is happening and why, but never get to that last part of coming up with alternatives/solutions/vision, then we feed the sense of helplessness and futility that many already feel...

  3. I see a viable way forward as being natural capitalism. As our model stands, we leave out the beginning (natural resources) and the end (waste) in terms of cost. Factor those in and you have a system that is sustainable. See Paul Hawken's Natural Capitalism.

    You see human beings as just that, human beings, throw in some representative democracy, and there you have it, our free market, neo-con, exploit! exploit! exploit! all-bottom-line style of capitalism's worst nightmare.

    When the student's in Tiananmen Square revolted, it wasn't because they wanted US democracy. They wanted real power to the people stuff.

    Shouldn't that be available to everyone? Is that not possible?

    Naomi Klein, Michael Moore & many, many others are doing their part. We just need to do ours.

  4. For those interested, here is the site for "natural capitalism": http://www.natcap.org

    PS: How do I make that a link in the comment, like Joe did? The code I use for posts didn't work here? I got a message that read:

    Your HTML cannot be accepted: Attribute "TARGET" is not allowed.

  5. This analysis of Klein's book from Counterpunch is a pretty interesting critique from further left.

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