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Shock Doctrine for Sustainability?
Jon Lebkowsky, 7 Dec 09

In the Oil Drum's Campfire, guest contributor Altaira suggests that environmental NGOs are falling into despair over the degree of human overshoot, that "the programs they run are like band aids when the wound calls for a tourniquet."

Although the depth of despair is greater than usual, most of these thoughts are old news. However, a couple of new conversational memes have emerged. First of all, my friends are turning inwards, becoming concerned about personal and family security. Second, they are considering adopting a new strategy that plans for responses to crisis and breakdown, rather than their usual fare, which is advocating for course corrections to avoid troubles.

Altaira sees a parallel with Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, a book that tells "how a particular wing of neoclassical economists, based primarily out of the University of Chicago, took advantage of disasters to push through legal, policy and business agreements that would never be accepted otherwise." The message here is that radical changes may only be possible during crisis - "in chaotic times the advantage goes to whoever has a response plan available." Is this something environmental groups should be considering as inherent strategy? What would a "shock doctrine" plan look like? Should this be visible strategy? These and other questions are discussed here.

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One of the things that I've always liked about this site was the degree of dissimilarity between it and much of what happens in the peak oil community.

That minor digression aside, doesn't the peak oil movement already have a shock doctrine in terms of the way that they've always tried to talk to other people about peak oil?

Has that really been successful?


Posted by: Harris Wilkes on 8 Dec 09

Stable equilibria in neoclassical economics may be a delusion built into its most fundamental formulation through its inappropriate application of Helmholtz' energy dynamics. The results of this religious belief in the equilibrium of unfettered markets has been well documented by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine.


Helmholtzian Regrets
(with apologies to Longfellow, Poe and Suess)


By the shores of Michi-Gami
By the shining global market
Bringer of all things the market
Raiser of all boats the market
Stood the office of the Friedman
Father of the boon the Friedman
Arbiter of rates the Friedman
Stopping global scares the Friedman
Priest of Laissez Faire the Friedman

No?... OK…

Once upon a downturn dreary, global markets weak and weary
Over a quaint volume of forgotten economic lore
While I quaffed my fear a numbing, in my brain I felt a drumming
As a memory gently humming, strumming on my forebrain’s door
“Tis just a ghost of ancient physics “strumming on my forebrain’s door
Only this and nothing more

Ah distinctly I remember, it was in a bleak September
Began liquidity dismember, signaling what was in store
Gnashed our teeth in pain and sorrow, as we vainly tried to borrow
“Not today, perhaps tomorrow” said the crack head banking whore
“No loans today from in my Caddy, try tomorrow, pay my Daddy”
“Then just post my bail once more”

Still No?...OK…Probably really a Seuss story anyway…

Neoclass Sneeches see invisible hands
Allocating resources across all lands
Removing barriers to equilibrate
Failing economies to set them straight
The ghost of Helmholtz spins in his grave
Vainly wishing his rep he could save
“I thought that ectoplasm made me look pretty bad”
“But using my Dynamics they made me look mad”
“Equating energy to utility was wholly misguided”
“And up here in heaven I’m constantly chided”
“For letting them do it, I look like a chump”
That basic mistake leads to bump after bump

My Energy Dynamics hidden deep inside
The neoclassic structures they built with such pride
You see cried Schumpeter we’re scientists too
Our bold intellectual prowess is just like you
What Mirowski calls emulation misbegotten
Recalls the theft I wish was forgotten
I take enough guff about mediums’ tappings
Without the heat for neoclass’ fake physics trappings

Closed energy systems do equilibrate
And if utility was conserved it just might work great
To steal my stuff for an econ theory-light
But utility and energy are nothing alike
No matter the edifice built on top
The neoclass endgame always will stop
In some form of stable configuration
Solved by neoclass confabulation
Or they would, except for the basic mistake
That utility energy’s mantle can’t take
So shaking economies up in the belief
That barrier downing always brings relief
Playing business and governments’ culpable cupid
Genius or selfish, destructive and stupid?
Increasingly frequent, increasingly global
Economic crises that are frightfully mobile
More higher peaks and more lower troughs
Strain the credulity of Krugman’s froths

As we shake the economies of the weak
(If we’d done such here we’d been shot in a week)
Equilibrium’s inevitable we boldly conclude
They just need more discipline, less heat and less food
Our thumb on the scale the tables been shifted
The worthy more worthy of what we have gifted
The strong are more strong now more able to rule
With us build those condos, just knock down that school
They now have the cash to hold off that mob
Of those without shelter, food or a job
With help from us winners we know they can hold
Off the hordes in the streets till their dead hands grow cold
Till we’re long retired and rich as we should
Can you say equilibrate, I knew you could

Worshiping in the church of Uncle Milty
Cleanses our sins, ensures we’re not guilty
Of any offences the IMF may commit
Removing barriers like a Mafia hit
To save economies in dire trouble
Just make sure you’re on the right side of that bu


Posted by: maurice nobert on 9 Mar 10

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