Naomi Klein, who literally wrote the book on transformations that take place under the cover of crisis, explains how the coronavirus is different from past disasters
Author Naomi Klein. Carsten Koall / Getty Images
“This is a moment that’s going to require a huge amount of courage,” says Naomi Klein. According to the American thinker and writer, one of the most influential of the past few decades, “There’s no going back to normal. We have to mistrust anyone playing the role of the strongman, particularly the leaders who left our societies so vulnerable in the first place. They are the last people that should be given added powers in the name of protecting us, because they’ve actually failed us, profoundly and murderously.
“We’re only in the middle of this crisis, but I think this could be a very radicalizing experience. The work required is of reconstruction and reimagination – we can’t go back to where we were before this crisis hit.”
“I’ve spent two decades studying the transformations that take place under the cover of disaster,” Klein wrote recently in The Intercept. “I’ve learned that one thing we can count on is this: During moments of cataclysmic change, the previously unthinkable suddenly becomes reality. In recent decades, that change has mainly been for the worst – but this has not always been the case. And it need not continue to be in the future.”
Klein, one of capitalism’s fiercest critics, will turn 50 next month. A little more than two decades have gone by since the appearance of her first book “No Logo,” which assailed corporate culture and became a cornerstone of the anti-globalization movement. In 2007, she published “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” which further consolidated her status as a social thinker of the first rank. (The New Yorker, for example, declared her at the time to be the left’s most influential woman.)
Klein argues in that book that since the 1970s politicians and profiteers have operated together to exploit periods of crisis, bolster their power and enrich themselves at the expense of the general public. They identified opportunities in natural disasters and in such human actions as wars and coups, in addition to economic crises.
During the course of the book, she presents various examples of the shock doctrine. It’s a long list, which begins with a first appearance of the doctrine in the Chile of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s, continues with its influence on Thatcherism in the United Kingdom and Reaganism in the United States, along with its use during the crisis that faced the economies of the Asian Tigers in the 1990s. During that same decade, it was also employed in response to the crises that faced China, South Africa and Russia – which underwent a process of total privatization, thus creating the class of new oligarchs in the post-Soviet state.
Klein is a Canadian Jew whose hippie parents headed north from the United States in protest, during the Vietnam War. She started out as a journalist, but in time became one of the outstanding theoreticians in her field, although she never finished her B.A. In the middle of a three-year appointment at Rutgers University as a professor of “media, culture and feminist studies,” she lives in New Jersey with her husband, Avi Lewis, a documentary filmmaker and a former presenter on Al Jazeera, and their 7-year-old son, Toma. SOURCE