Coronavirus And The ‘Shock Doctrine’

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We all have to come together. We need to help each other. We don’t have time for politics as usual.

In times of crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic, these sorts of calls for cooperation become the drumbeat of our daily lives.

Unfortunately, no drumbeat ever gets everybody marching in sync. In deeply unequal societies like our own, a wealthy few can exploit such catastrophes to make themselves even wealthier.

Back in 2007, Naomi Klein explored this phenomenon brilliantly in her landmark book The Shock Doctrine. Klein showed how corporate elites worldwide have repeatedly and brutally used “the public’s disorientation following a collective shock — wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes, or natural disasters — to push through radical pro-corporate measures.”

The 2008 financial collapse would vividly illustrate the dynamics Klein described. The Wall Street giants whose reckless and criminal behavior ushered in that crisis ended up even bigger and more powerful than before the crisis began.

Klein sees those same dynamics now resurfacing in the coronavirus crisis. “We are seeing,” she told Democracy Now recently, “this very predictable process that we see in the midst of every economic crisis, which is extreme corporate opportunism.”

In response to the pandemic, she said, Trump is “dusting off” the Wall Street wishlist on everything from cutting and privatizing Social Security — by undermining its payroll tax revenue stream — to enriching the fossil fuel industry with huge bailouts.

So how can we prevent a “shock doctrine” repeat?

For starters, we need to provide immediate support for those the coronavirus is hitting the hardest: the sick and those who care for them, as well as the workers who lose jobs and income.

But we can’t afford to stop there. We need, in effect, a “shock doctrine” in reverse. We need to seize the openings for change the coronavirus presents — and challenge the capacity of our rich and powerful to become ever richer and more powerful at the expense of everyone else.

One example: Within our increasingly coronavirus-ravaged economy, more and more families will be facing evictions. Progressive activists and officials are now quite rightfully calling for a coronavirus moratorium on evictions.

But we have a chance to go much further. Why not use this crisis to rewrite the eviction-enabling statutes that let corporate landlords enrich themselves at the expense of vulnerable families in the first place?

The coronavirus crisis also gives us an opportunity to use the public purse to shift our economy towards greater equity and sustainability. The core of a reverse shock doctrine ought to be a massive public investment program designed to create good jobs, with a premium on projects that better position our economy to address climate change.

But we could also use these funds to reverse some of the inequality that makes economic crises so dangerous to begin with.

Various industries are already clamoring for federal loan guarantees and other bailouts to get them past the coronavirus crisis. For immediate bailout funds, policymakers should consider attaching pro-worker strings.

We could deny, for instance, tax-dollar support to private companies that pay their CEOs over 50 or 100 times what they pay their most typical workers. Moves in that direction would give top execs an incentive to pay workers more — and exploit them less.

Back in mid-20th century America, a time of much greater equality than we have now, corporate top execs only averaged 30 times more pay than their workers. That more equal America proved resilient enough to overcome a fearsome polio epidemic and prosper.

That more equal America, let’s remember, also emerged out of the back-to-back crises of the Great Depression and world war against fascism. Progressives seized the opportunity those crises created and changed the face of American society. Why can’t we?

  • eight.of.wands

    One gargantuan impediment nowadays to fighting social injustice is the willingness of the vast majority of Americans to unthinkingly believe, respect, obey and fear authority… the face of ever increasingly and blatantly illegitimate (even illegal) authority, we willingly submit and surrender ourselves to helplessness and hopelessness…..a particularly cruel irony in this much-vaunted “land of the free and the home of the brave” bullshit, n’est-ce pas??…..i am referring to ALL authority, everywhere, be it authoritarianism in families, governments, classrooms, workplaces, unions, churches, corrupted legal systems, criminal financial institutions, Goebbels-wannabe newspaper editors, moneystuffed TV (s)nooz anchors and shill pundits and viewless View buffoons, EVERYONE…..and yes, i immediately also thought of Klein’s Shock Doctrine as ginned up public anxiety and hysteria perfectly coincided with the incomprehensible annointment of a shockingly flawed Joe Biden (read: rampant and brazen voting machine fraud since not-so-super Tuesday) and the killing in broad daylight of the Sanders social movement…..”Nothing to see here, folks, just keep moving”….and running scared…

  • eight.of.wands
  • D.K. Wilson

    TBH, I don’t believe the tales of the glorious past. I find it especially specious that a group of people who admittedly used the societal doctrine of the copper-colored people (as autochthonous people of America were once called in first-hand accounts) of the land – today, “appropriation – then turned to use said doctrine as an ideal for everyone to uphold and live by BUT them. Now, in this glorious past there were said to be many open rebellions against “tyranny.” Hmmm, quite interesting that, seemingly, none of them accomplished anything. As we can see from the above article and articles like this one written over decades at least, the song of tyranny and exploitive behavior spurred by shocks both real and wholly contrived, remains the same.

    What is spoken of in the aforementioned article, in the way of enrichment of the elite through shocks to the general citizenry, was long ago perfected post-“Dark Age” by Europeans, especially those of England, France, Spain and Portugal… what, this method of “work” wasn’t brought to the shores of America by the same societal class? It wasn’t carried on and maintained as it is today by the gatekeeper class who directly served the elite? This shock doctrine and others meant for the same purpose of enrichment of a few didn’t achieve the same goal (and please do not bring up the Civil War; too much of the reality of that internal fight is known to think it was a shock doctrine/control mechanism outlier)?

    Anyway, as David Byrne plaintively wailed, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.”

  • RBluhm

    WE COULD stop pretending that electronically counted election results actually reflect the actual votes of the electorate. We could read “Code Red: Computerized Elections and the War on American Democracy.” We could demand publicly counted paper ballots and we could tell all the Wizards of Oz to go home.

  • gustave courbet

    Hypocrisy doesn’t preclude insight.

  • gustave courbet

    Not until people understand that it’s a problem. Education is needed and the mass media is currently an impediment rather than a tool.

  • Believe me, at 30% PLUS unemployment rates (that’s THIS MONTH!), the respect for government is going vanish like it was never there IF a Shock Doctrine IN REVERSE is not instituted within ONE WEEK. The clock is ticking on the COVID-19 Pandemic. All the soldiers and all the authoritarian bullshit from fascists like Trump and Barr will not keep them from getting thrown out on their ear, along with all the DINO “Democrats”, when Americans see mass deaths AND even more massive hunger. And yes, THAT is what is coming by June 15, if the COVID-19 projected peak stats are accurate. I think they are.

  • eight.of.wands


  • eight.of.wands

    …this is certainly a cannonball outta nowhere to human societal frameworks across the planet, that’s for damn sure….as a biologist, i’m as clueless as everyone else to where this all is ultimately headed….as a blackjack player, at this point i’d say all bets are off….things will go where they need to go….as a Daoist, i guess we’ll all see together!

  • Southern

    It does appear that other agendas are being implemented although the author didn’t mention that a number of people have noticed Telecom vans near schools where they are rumored to be installing 5G Biometric systems.

    Since links trigger moderation that require several days if not months to be approved – Look for this title on Global Research – Are 5G / Biometric Systems Being Covertly Installed During the Lockdown, Where You Live?