I had heard of this book a long time back but never really got around to reading it. Finally got my chance and went over it rather slowly as I digested and wondered over the information presented in the book.
The central thesis of this book is that pure free market capitalism, as championed by the Chicago school, is a rather unnatural economic arrangement and requires an intervention of cataclysmic proportions to ensure that the society will accept the free market economic arrangement.
Naomi Klein first describes the origin of the idea of a shock to create a disoriented victim, a prisoner, who can then be made to get re-oriented with a new mindset, one helpful to the captors.
Using that analogy, she then lists how the Chicago School’s idea of unfettered free market capitalism was exported by using political and social upheavals occurring at that time. The examples of South America in the 1970s is provided (when democratic power was usurped by military force), of Russia when communism fell (around 1991 or so), and how the Iraq War of 2003 was one with massive private sector involvement (thus leading to the rise of the military-industrial complex in home territory, the USA, and not just as a wing of the Department of Defense).
She then lists how the natural calamities of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and governmental responses to the South Asian Tsunami of 2004 were also used to try and push free market reforms in the disaster hit regions. It seemed to be less successful than attempts made using overt, menacing force as people began to catch on quickly and took matters into their own hands.
The last chapter details how the Israeli business community used the Israel-Palestine conflict to develop and deploy military software and tactics (reports from the Gaza conflict also explain how the conflicts are used to test military hardware(1, 2, 3)).
The book ends with one glimmer of hope though. The success of shock treatment to prisoners to unhinge their minds depends on preventing information and sensory perception after the shock. Breaking the lack of information and sensory perception has proven to be a fairly effective manner of avoiding the hijacking of the prevailing socioeconomic structure. In South America and in the disaster hit regions, wherever people realized what they were being made to endure resulted in the people uniting to work on a solution that benefits everyone and not just a wealthy section of society.
That’s where the media consistently fails.