Thailand University Teacher Extraordinaire

The trials and tribulations of a young English teacher

Books Reviewed – The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

on Thu,Mar,2011

I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about economics, so it was with great reluctance that I found myself considering this book. It came with strong recommendations from three of my friends though, so I eventually found myself buying it on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I definitely made the right decision.

In a nutshell, using as little jargon as possible, this book looks at how economic and political shocks have been used around the world to benefit wealthy individuals and corporations. The book focuses on how economist Milton Friedman’s ideology has been used with devastating consequences. Major political and economics related events in Latin America, Britain, Russia, Poland, South Africa, Iraq, Sri Lanka and the USA are discussed. In all of these places, shocks were used and taken advantage of in order to force through unpopular and unfair policies.

In every chapter, there is something that provokes a raise of the eyebrows or a loud curse. It was interesting to see just how active the CIA was in taking part in coups in South America. Moreover, it was interesting to read about the misdeeds of institutions like the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. It is strange that they can continue to exist with any kind of legitimacy.

One reason I enjoyed this book so much was being able to make sense of recent historic events that I missed out on because I was a child. I remember seeing many of the main protagonists on TV, the Pinochets, the Gorbachovs, the Thatchers, but I was too young to really understand what was happening and the significance of the events.

Another big strength of this book is how meticulously researched it is. In my copy of this book, 80 pages in the back are notes that back up the vast majority of Klein’s claims. It is clear that thousands and thousands of hours were spent researching and fact checking details. Only a madman would take the time to go through all of these pages though.

One thing I would recommend to anyone considering reading this book is to have easy access to a dictionary or the internet, particularly if you don’t know your left wing from your right wing, or aren’t sure what neoliberalism could possibly mean. A glossary at the back of the book for quick reference would make this book much more accessible to fellow economics novices.

To sum up, this is probably one of the most important non fiction books that I have read. Many Americans may not like it, but it should be considered essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in international politics or economics.


One response to “Books Reviewed – The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

  1. Peter Osbourne says:

    I too loved Shock Doctrine. And I like your site. I’m a teacher in Thailand and have taught at several universities here. My comment is meant to be constructive and so I hope you won’t find offense. I’m impressed by how many people who didn’t grow up in the US make assumptions about what ‘a typical American thinks.’ I know lots of typical Americans of various levels of intelligence. I’ve had the pleasure of living overseas for a decade and as it turns out, most of my friends are from the UK. This has been my decade of loving all things English. But I sense a seething undercurrent of offense at ‘the Americans’ which doesn’t seem accurate. There’s an assumption by all non-Americans, from Canada to Europe to Asia, it seems to me, that all Americans support the wars in iraq and Afghanistan. That all Americans support the Republicans, the Neocons, the Bushies. This isn’t the case at all. Also, the world seems to be sitting back waiting for the American empire to collapse and they think they have overwhelming evidence of that. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s impossible to understand America completely unless you grew up there yet, so many people from so many other countries think they do understand. We go through economic cycles constantly and we always come out the other end better off. This isn’t my opinion, this is historical fact.
    Keep up the good work on this website. Oh and get out of Thailand as soon as you’re able. You’re initial feelings about not having a future here are absolutely correct. You will never rise above the status of ‘farang teacher’ and you will always be paid accordingly. Thai teachers especially hold you in low regard because you work less than they do, get treated with more respect than they do and most importantly, get paid a lot more than they do.

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