Henwood on Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine

Doug Henwood reviews Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine in The Left Business Observer:

As do many partisans of the global justice movement, Klein exhibits a nostalgia for the Keyensian welfare state model that prevailed in many rich countries in the decades following World War II. That model had a counterpart, roughly over the same period, in Latin America in the import-substitution model, in which tariffs and other import restrictions were used to protect local industries in the hope they’d develop.

Import substitution had its successes, for sure, but they were fairly limited. The regimes that practiced it were often corrupt and repressive, with deep ties between protected industrialists and their political patrons, and the products of these coddled industries were often shoddy and expensive. There’s no doubt that successful development requires some kinds of “protection,” but it’s hard to do it deftly.

And the victims of Pinochet and Argentine junta were rebels against that very model of capitalism. At first, the military dictatorships of Latin America weren’t trying to impose neoliberalism—they were trying to defend the system of private property against a variety of populists, socialists, and communists.

Using words like “Friedmanite” and “neoliberalism” is a way to avoid talking about capitalism in any systemic fashion. When Klein does address systemic issues, she professes that she’s not anticapitalist, but prefers a form of managed or welfare capitalism. It would be sectarian to say that managed or welfare capitalism isn’t better than what we’ve got now; it most certainly would be, especially in the U.S., where a single-payer healthcare system seems almost like a revolutionary impossibility. But it would be naive to think that we could get there without a political upsurge demanding an even more radical renovation, and evasive to deny that exploitation wouldn’t still exist under a regulated capitalism.