The Shock Doctrine Book Summary - The Shock Doctrine Book explained in key points
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The Shock Doctrine summary

Naomi Klein

Disaster capitalism's rise and what it means for you

4.2 (60 ratings)
15 mins

What is The Shock Doctrine about?

The Shock Doctrine (2008) offers insights into the dark world of disaster capitalism, in which crises serve as an instrument to undo the trade regulations and national protections which prevent international megacorporations from totally exploiting poorer countries. Rooted in the findings of the CIA-sponsored "MKUltra" psychological torture experiments, economic shock treatment has left behind a legacy of blood and destruction since it first began to be taken seriously in the 1970s.

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    The Shock Doctrine
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    In their interrogations, the CIA used psychological shock treatments designed to “recreate” the individual.

    Throughout the history of psychology, scientists and academics have wondered how to best treat those suffering from psychological afflictions. By the mid-twentieth century, most treatment methods were focused on repairing psychological damage.

    But Dr. Ewen Cameron decided to take a different approach: recreating the psychologically damaged individual through the process of shock therapy. With CIA funding to support his work, Cameron’s performed extensive experiments with electro shock treatment, where electric current is passed through a patient to induce seizures.

    He noticed that his subjects followed a particular pattern: patients would first revert from a normal state to child-like behavior, until eventually completely regressing to permanent confusion and listlessness.

    Cameron believed that at this point the individuals were “blank slates” on which new, healthy identities could be written.

    The problem was that it didn't work. While Cameron was able to wear down their identities, he could not recreate them.

    So, rather than changing his approach to get the desired results, Cameron opted to intensify his treatments. He began by using methods which were similar to torture: month-long sensory deprivation and isolation, intentional confusion, massive electric shocks and mega-doses of psychedelic drugs.

    Meanwhile, the CIA recognized that Cameron's extreme shock therapy could also be used to other ends – for pacification and information extraction.

    The extreme isolation (through sensory deprivation) and confusion (through intentionally distorting time by, for example, changing their meal schedules) inflicted upon Cameron’s subjects made it impossible for them to make any sense of their experiences. The direct result of this was a heightened impressionability and cooperation, of which CIA interrogators later made great use to extract information.

    And by coupling this isolation with sensory overload – for example, with strobe lights or extremely loud music – they could further increase the cooperation of patients and, later, prisoners.

    These observations were collected in a document called the Kubark Manual, which would serve as the protocol for what would later be termed “advanced interrogation techniques” – or, as some would call it, torture.

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    About the Author

    Naomi Klein is a bestselling author and political activist who has received the Warwick Prize for Writing and the National Business Book Award. In addition to writing the critically acclaimed nonfiction works The Shock Doctrine and No Logo, she also contributed to a number of film productions, such as The Take and The Corporation.

    Who should read The Shock Doctrine?

    • Anyone interested in economics
    • Anyone interested in foreign policy
    • Anyone interested in history


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