Nicholas Maes‘ “review” of Naomi Klein’s “screed”, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism in Jan.-Feb issue of Books in Canada seems more a rant than a reasoned attempt to take issue with another author. I haven’t read the book, but I am familiar with Klein’s politics, while Maes seems to be shocked that negative things are being written about neoliberalism. In trying to be balanced he instead ends up justifying atrocities running from Allende’s murder in Chile to the war in Iraq. Maes’ defence of neoliberalism rests solely on the old doctrine of ‘might makes right’.
Maes does an excellent job summing up capitalist history in the first couple of columns of his review. When he comes to Chile’s Allende and Alan Friedman, his analysis starts to fall apart. The “…number of Chileans living in poverty…” was not the result of a failure of neoliberalism or Friedman, rather the poverty was a direct result of the success of this ideology. And make no mistake – neoliberalsim is as much a political ideology as socialism. The difference is the latter seeks to allow humans to produce what is truly needed, not what can be produced for profit. Ideologies in themselves, as concepts, are not the problem. It is the intent of an ideology that is the point, not ideology per se, and often, to uncover the intent, means to follow the money. If one follows that trail left by neoliberalism one finds far more the cash in the pockets of what C. Wright Mills called the power elites, than in the pockets of the global working class. William E. Kilbourne (2004), writing in Journal of Macromarketing, states that with neoliberalism
…what were once considered political questions
are reduced to economic questions to be answered through
the operation of impersonal market mechanisms. This does
not imply that all political questions are reduced to economics
but that many areas that have traditionally been political
questions, such as education, health care, and security, are
being relegated to the market for resource allocations.
And within that quote lies the class struggle before us. The triumphalist bravado of free market advocates is based on the ludicrous premise that with the end of politics comes the end of history. Instead, history is simply repeating itself. Global, neoliberal capitalism is the same animal as industrial capitalism of 100 years ago. Elites argue amongst themselves over how best to exploit for profit, and the working class argues on how best to counter or overthrow the power elites.
Maes states that neoliberal principles have been “…misapplied … and easily lend themselves to authoritarian regimes…” Neoliberalism is a deliberate strategy deliberately applied in democracies and dictatorships to exploit everything from human beings to the very earth itself. Maes says aspects of the war in Iraq are “…deeply troubling…” Many call the war a crime against humanity. To call aspects of the war troubling is the year’s greatest understatement, or lying to go to war has become acceptable around certain dinner tables.
Klein is certainly not a conspiracy theorist. The rationale for privatization has always been well understood – as a myth. Maes has simply digested and regurgitated the old lie that public services are mismanaged, inefficient and inferior. Those were the big lies which had to be fed to people before the likes of Mike Harris could be elected, never mind Mulroney, Thatcher and Reagan. Maes then moves on to defend the likes of Donald Rumsfeld. Does Maes seriously believe that outsourcing an invading army, so it is less visible, is a positive value? The U.S. army is outsourced in Iraq because it is stretched to the limit in terms of boots on the ground. A draft in the United States is not politically feasible so the Bush administration is increasing numbers through contractors. There is no possibility of a moral defence for the war in Iraq! That war has killed 4000 American soldiers and thousands of Iraqis, gated off Iraqi oil and placed the US military in a position to deny China further ground in the area, including Africa. In short we are staring at another Cold War – and more likely another global war. Neoliberalism has a violent history because it is inherently anti-democratic, elitist, and relies on force and intimidation for success – from Chile in 1974 to Iraq in 2008. There can be no moral defence of neoliberalism as well. This isn’t new. From the Philippines in the late 1800’s to United Fruit in Guatemala in 1954, the list of American culpability in the thwarting of popular movements around the world is long and sordid.
If Klein is strident and passionate, it is not because she is simply “…raising legitimate questions…” It is because she is calling neoliberalism what it is: anti-democratic and possibly criminal. It will be up to our children and grandchildren to make that call. For Klein and many others the evidence is not based on innuendo, rather on hard, observable evidence.
 Kilbourne William E. “Globalization and Development: An Expanded Macromarketing View”. Journal of Macromarketing vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 122-135, 2004