Friday, December 12, 2008

Chait v. Klein

A commenter pointed out how widely discredited Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine is, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. I went back to read Jonathan Chait's takedown of the book in The New Republic, and if you're interested in the subject at all, I recommend reading the whole thing. Two passages stood out on rereading it. The first succinctly makes the point that best rebuts Klein's conspiratorial tone. Parenthetical additions are mine:
Klein repeatedly implies that there is something immoral about using crises to advance the right-wing agenda without explaining why this is so. After all, (Milton) Friedman wanted to overhaul the New Orleans public education system (even before Hurricane Katrina) because he believed, rightly or wrongly, that vouchers would work better. If you thought your house was horribly designed, and a tornado flattened it, would you rebuild it exactly as before?

The notion that crises create fertile terrain for political change, far from being a ghoulish doctrine unique to free-market radicals, is a banal and ideologically universal fact. (Indeed, it began its dubious modern career in the orbit of Marxism, where it was known as "sharpening the contradictions.")
Then there's this, which is broader, meaner, and thus more fun:
(Klein's) cheerful insouciance in the face of such inconvenient facts points to an odd, slightly endearing quality of hers: she is conscientious enough to provide readers with facts that blow her thesis to smithereens, yet at the same time she is deluded enough not to notice the rubble of her thinking on the floor.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post makes me happy. I have a chip on my shoulder about THE SHLOCK DOCTRINE, for a very silly reason. The video trailer that was produced to market it online (it's posted on Amazon and surely also on YouTube) is repeatedly held up as an example (to me, by my boss) of an effective marketing video. (I work in book marketing.) Surely I am defective in this professional role because I find the video incredibly broing.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone took your original comments to be an endorsement of Klein's work. The Shock Doctrine is the most dishonest piece of propaganda since the national socialist efforts in the late 1930s.

11:56 AM  

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