The Shock Doctrine

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The Shock Doctrine is Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein’s companion piece to her popular 2007 book of the same name. In short, the shock doctrine is a theory for explaining the way that force, stealth, and crisis are used in implementing neoliberal economic policies such as privatization, deregulation and cuts to social services.

The shock doctrine suggests that in periods of chaos often following wars, coups, natural disasters and economic panics, pro-corporate reformers aggressively push through unpopular “free market” measures. Klein posits that followers of Milton Friedman and other market fundamentalists have been perfecting this very strategy: waiting for a major crisis, then selling off pieces of the state to private players while citizens were still reeling from the shock, then quickly making the “reforms” permanent.

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