Shock doctrine

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The shock doctrine is a term originated by Canadian author Naomi Klein to describe the idea that large organizational entities, and especially governments, might use the shock caused by a major traumatic event or disaster to implement radical policies which wouldn't otherwise be accepted by the public.


The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is a 2008 book published by Klein which outlined her theories on "the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically. Exposing the thinking, the money trail and the puppet strings behind the world-changing crises and wars of the last four decades, The Shock Doctrine is the gripping story of how America’s “free market” policies have come to dominate the world-- through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries."

According to Klein, "the book traces its origins back fifty years, to the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, which produced many of the leading neo-conservative and neo-liberal thinkers whose influence is still profound in Washington today."[1]

In the book, Klein explains the implementation of pro-corporate policies which she demonstrates has occurred in disaster and war-torn countries across the world in the last 50 years.

Friedman and the Shock Doctrine

The shock doctrine is based on a quote from Milton Friedman's 1982 preface to his book, Capitalism and Freedom, published in 1962: "Only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that lying around."[2]

Uses of the Shock Doctrine

Naomi traces the origins of the shock doctrine back to the CIA interrogation manual developed in the 1950s, the teachings of Milton Friedman, and Latin American unrest in the 1960s and 70s, among other places.


  1. Klein, Book Synopsis November 14, 2011
  2. Friedman on Wikiquote November 15, 2011