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KLEIN, Naomi

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

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Pioneered in Iraq, for-profit relief and reconstruction has already become the new global paradigm, regardless of whether the original destruction occurred from a pre-emptive war, such as Israel’s 2006 attack on Lebanon, or a hurricane. With resource scarcity and climate change providing a steadily increasing flow of new disasters, responding to emergencies is simply too hot an emerging market to be left to the non-profits—why should UNICEF rebuild schools when it can be done by Bechtel, one of the largest engineering firms in the U.S.? Why put displaced people from Mississippi in subsidized empty apartments when they can be housed on Carnival cruise ships? Why deploy UN peacekeepers to Darfur when private security companies like Blackwater are looking for new clients? And that is the post-September 11 difference: before, wars and disasters provided opportunities for a narrow sector of the economy—the makers of fighter jets, for instance, or the construction companies that rebuilt bombed-out bridges. The primary economic role of wars, however, was as a means to open new markets that had been sealed off and to generate post-war peacetime booms. Now wars and disaster responses are so fully privatized that they are themselves the new market; there is no need to wait until after the war for the boom—the medium is the message. One distinct advantage of this postmodern approach is that in market terms, it cannot fail. As a market analyst remarked of a particularly good quarter for the earnings of the energy services company Halliburton, “Iraq was better than expected.” That was in October 2006, then the most violent month of the war on record, with 3,709 Iraqi civilian casualties. Still, few shareholders could fail to be impressed by a war that had generated $20 billion in revenues for this one company. Amid the weapons trade, the private soldiers, for-profit reconstruction and the homeland security industry, what has emerged as a result of the Bush administration’s particular brand of post-September 11 shock therapy is a fully articulated new economy. It was built in the Bush era, but it now exists quite apart from any one administration and will remain entrenched until the corporate supremacist ideology that underpins it is identified, isolated and challenged.

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