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Best Of Tnr 2008: Dead Left

Jonathan Chait excoriates Naomi Klein's book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism:

Klein proceeds to interpret most of the events of the last thirty years as repetitions of the same inexorable pattern: elites forcing laissez-faire policies upon unwilling citizens. Her interpretive method is an extremely crude sort of Marxist economicism. The Tiananmen Square uprising, in Klein's telling, was not a pro-democracy movement so much as an explosion of opposition to privatization, and Beijing crushed the movement not in the service of autocracy but in the service of neoliberalism. "It wasn't Communism [Deng] was protecting with his crackdown," she writes, "but capitalism." ...

Almost nothing can confound Klein's cookie cutter. You might have thought that, say, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rooted in non-monetary things such as land, religion, security, and ideology. But it is not, as the doctrinaire Klein confidently explains. Israel made a peace deal with the Palestinians in 1993 because "Israeli corporations were tired of being held back by war," and thought that if Israel made peace, it would "be perfectly positioned to be the Middle East's free-trade hub." But then what changed? The answer is the Israeli economy: "the flipping of Israel's export economy from one based on traditional goods and high technology to one disproportionately dependent on selling expertise and devices related to counterterrorism." Klein takes an unusual view of the causal relationship. Rather than terrorism instigating the rise of Israel's counterterrorism sector, Klein sees the relationship working in reverse: "the rapid expansion of the high-tech security economy created a powerful appetite inside Israel's wealthy and most powerful sectors for abandoning peace in favor of fighting a continual, and continuously expanding, War on Terror." So Israel decided to provoke bomb blasts in its buses and pizzerias largely--again, she dutifully concedes that it was not the sole factor--because building blast walls and bomb detectors became more profitable than living in peace.

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