naomi’s shock


Klein combines her critical analyses of the corporate economy with a naive celebration of ‘joyous’ populism, democracy and mass movements. The cynical abuse of democratic slogans by the Bush administration gives her no pause. She defends her idealised picture of democratic movements from critical scrutiny, in the time-tested way, by making sure we cannot see them in action. Anti-immigrant xenophobia, hostile as it is to the free-market model that she, too, opposes, is never mentioned as a genuine expression of democratic populism. Wasn’t there majority white support for the dispossession of New Orleans’ black community after Katrina? And wasn’t there majority Russian support for Putin’s wars in Chechnya? Isn’t the ordinary citizen’s fear and hatred of otherness as malicious a force as the corporate profiteer’s insatiable greed?

She claims that economic ‘reform’ in 1990s Russia was ‘one of the greatest crimes committed against a democracy in modern history’, thwarting an ‘authentic democratic revolution’. Here she is making the same mistake of which she rightly accuses Friedman. She is confusing the absence of obstacles with the presence of preconditions. Authentic democracy will not spontaneously emerge simply because tyranny has been knocked down and all the ‘distortions’ have been removed. Klein might defend herself by saying that the ‘democracy’ she apotheosises is exclusively a democracy of protest, never a democracy of governance, and therefore invulnerable to criticism for unfairness, stupidity or abuse of power. But this response would not sit well with her understandable but unrealistic hope that ordinary citizens around the world will soon ‘become the authors of their national destinies, at last’.

more from the LRB here.