Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Naomi Klein: Most Influential Figure on the American Left?

Readers will get a kick out of this piece on Naomi Klein at the New Yorker, "Outside Agitator."

Here's a passage from the scene in Toronto where Klein was being introduced:

“We apologize for starting late, but it’s typical activist time, so I’m sure you’re used to it,” a young woman organizer said from the stage. The young woman wore a black necklace, black jeans, and black hoop earrings. She urged the audience to fight racism and poverty, and to work for education, international solidarity, justice for immigrants and refugees, and solidarity with Palestine and with the Mohawk of Tyendinaga and the Algonquin of Barriere Lake, on whose behalf the fund-raiser that night was being held. She squinted into the lights. “I’m glad you can’t see the audience from here,” she said, “because I don’t think I’ve ever spoken in front of eight hundred and fifty people except at a protest, and then you can always dissolve into a chant.” She consulted her notes. “To a different audience—to those that hold capital and power in this society—Naomi Klein’s words and her ideas are seen as a serious threat,” she said. “Her words are a source of inspiration . . . for those of us who were and are being radicalized by the anti-globalization, anti-colonial, and anti-poverty movements and the demands to change the system totally and completely.”
Like I said: You've got to love it!

Hey, solidarity between Mohawks and Algonquins and Hamas? Oh, it's "imperialism." I got it.

Here's the description of Klein's book, The Shock Doctrine:

The central thesis of the book is that capitalism and democracy, free markets and free people, do not, as we’ve been told, go hand in hand. On the contrary, capitalism—at least fundamentalist capitalism, of the type promoted by the late economist Milton Friedman and his “Chicago School” acolytes—is so unpopular, and so obviously harmful to everyone except the richest of the rich, that its establishment requires, at best, trickery and, at worst, terror and torture. Friedman believed that markets perform best when freed from government interference, so he advocated getting rid of tariffs, subsidies, minimum-wage laws, public housing, Social Security, financial regulation, and licensing requirements, including those for doctors—indeed, virtually every measure devised to protect people from the market’s harsh logic. Klein argues that the only circumstance in which a population would accept Friedman-style reforms is when it is in a state of shock, following a crisis of some sort—a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, a war. A person in shock regresses to a childlike state in which he longs for a parental figure to take control; similarly, a population in a state of shock will hand exceptional powers to its leaders, permitting them to destroy the regulatory functions of government.
Read the whole thing, here.

The piece goes on to say that Klein's "the most visible and influential figure on the American left—what Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky were thirty years ago."

Of course, like her predecessors, she'll quietly recede into irrelevance as the current economy emerges out of recession - unless, shock!, she ends up being a true prophet of the coming progressive moment in world history.

See also my earlier essay, "
Naomi Klein's Anti-Imperialist Blueprint for the Left."


Anonymous said...

Hi Don,
Please email me, I am using an older computer, as mine is having emergency surgery, and this one is lacking my address book! I have a very interesting email to send you...

PRH said...

Never heard of Naomi...