Public Values

How political manoeuvres in Wisconsin are using the pretext of crisis to subvert democracy

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviews Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein.

Klein: With incredible reserves of resolve, dignity, and collective history, the ground is shifting.AMY GOODMAN: Rallies for workers' rights are spreading across the country. In Michigan, over a thousand people rallied at the State Capitol in Lansing to oppose a measure allowing the breaking of labour contracts by placing schools and districts under emergency management. In a scene reminiscent of Wisconsin, hundreds of demonstrators packed the Capitol Rotunda chanting slogans. Protests were also held against anti-union bills Tuesday in Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Florida, and Tennessee.

Meanwhile, in Idaho, the state legislature has given final approval to a measure restricting the collective bargaining of public school teachers. The bill would limit teachers' collective bargaining to salaries and benefits. It also ends teacher tenure, limits teacher contracts to one year, and removes seniority as a factor in determining layoffs.

As a wave of anti-union bills are introduced across the country in the wake of the Great Recession, many analysts are picking up on the theory that award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein first argued in her bestselling book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In it, she reveals how those in power use times of crisis to push through undemocratic, radical, free market economic policies.

Nobel Prize-winning economist, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, recently referenced the book in his column called "Shock Doctrine, U.S.A." He wrote, quote, "The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority [in Iraq] was the centrepiece of Naomi Klein's best-selling book The Shock Doctrine, which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

"Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display," Krugman wrote.

Well, Naomi Klein joins us today in our studio for the hour. In addition to The Shock Doctrine, she's the author of two previous books: No Logo: Taking Aim at Brand Bullies and Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate. She's currently writing a new book which focuses on the public relations campaign distorting climate change facts.

Naomi Klein, welcome to Democracy Now!

For the complete interview transcript, please click here.

Related individuals, organizations and significant events

Posted: March 17, 2011

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