October 06, 2007

Profile in Courage or not

Well the news has come through, Gordon Brown has postponed the election we were apparantly going to have. It seems that Mr Brown feels that he can't win- surveys and polls conducted in marginals over the weekend have convinced him of that. But lets be frank, there is in my opinion massive damage to Mr Brown's reputation. For a start, throughout his career Mr Brown has shown a talent for hesitating and not plunging the knife in- he could have stood for the Labour leadership in 1992, in 1994 and could have unseated Mr Blair as well at various points, but he never did. He backed off at every possible opportunity. Well he has backed off again.

The other problem is that Mr Brown now has to govern. That shouldn't be a problem. But at the moment the economic situation is benign, public services are ok etc. Were the economic situation to get worse then Mr Brown would lose in the polls. Furthermore public service expenditure is going to slow by all projections which means there won't be much improvement across the next couple of years, again for Mr Brown that won't be good in the polls. Mr Brown seems to me to be relying on something turning up- but I can't see that at the moment, the economy and the country are in places where what turns up will be good for him. Apart that is from the inevitable two issues- terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which are quite unpredictable in their impact. Politics as Harold Macmillan said is about 'events, dear boy, events': there will be lots of events before an election in 2009 which may occur against the backdrop of a recession.

Mr Brown has advertised his own preference to have an election now, he has backed out because he thought he might lose. By taking his troops right to the brink of battle and then skulking away, the Prime Minister has displayed a very public loss of nerve. A public loss of nerve that isn't exactly going to endear him to the population at large or indeed to his own party, used to the adroit handling of Mr Blair who when it came to this kind of thing was viciously clinical.

Obviously Mr Brown can dig himself out of this, but this decision is unwise and caps a bad week for the new Prime Minister.

October 05, 2007

Gingerbread men doing the Haka

As its the Rugby world cup, and given my All Black genes, this was too good not to post it to this blog- for those illiterates from across the oceans its the traditional Maori dance the Haka which the All Blacks (New Zealand's rugby team) do before every Rugby game- but with a difference its performed by Gingerbread men!

Hat tip to Mr Cole for discovering it.

October 03, 2007

Control: A Biopic of Ian Curtis


Control is a film about the lead singer in one of the greatest bands that Britain has ever produced, Joy Division.They stand as one of the better bands between the Beatles and later bands like Nirvana. They also were crucial to the development of the music scene in Manchester, a scene which later produced bands like the Stone Roses and of course Oasis. Their reputation is founded on their two albums, Closer and Unknown Pleasures, on numerous live nights in the clubs of the North West and on singles released in the early eighties. And much of their reputation comes down to the haunting voice and disturbing lyrics of their singer song-writer, Ian Curtis. Their career as a band was so short, because Curtis committed suicide aged only 23 in 1980. The band reformed as New Order without him and went in different directions, but one wonders what would have happened had Curtis had more years to explore musically.

Control documents Curtis's life, from being a teenager in Macclesfield during the early seventies to the first successes with Joy Division, through his young marriage to Debbie Curtis and his affair with the Belgian embassy worker (and part time journalist) Annik Honore, and right up till his eventual suicide. Throughout the movie runs the music, it opens with love will tear us apart one of Joy Division's great songs. This is a film where every sentence is uttered to the backdrop of a guitar chord, where you see and smell the inside of the northern clubs in which Joy Division came to prominence- particularly of course the Factory, managed by Tony Wilson.

If Curtis's life is the subject, then the north west of England in the seventies is the backdrop against which we see that subject. It is the fourth most important character in the story: the other members of Joy Division, their manager Rob Gretton, Tony Wilson and the rest are all shown as the Mancunian context in which Curtis lived. He lived in a society filled with a kind of grim humour- sarcasm and insult abounds. The audience of film critics at the screening I went to found the first half of the film filled with jokes. There are some wonderful moments of humour. Corbijn has captured the peculiar inarticulateness of English life- where gesture becomes infused with all kinds of meaning. Like Atonement, the recent Joe Wright film of Ian McEwan's novel, this is a film about English privacy and the humour and distress which results from it.

For Curtis's life is still veiled in mystery. So quiet did he keep his concerns- he suffered from epilepsy without any of his bandmates knowing until he had a fit right in front of them. He seems in the film to be almost incapable of saying what he means. At times he stands still and silent, exasperating by never explaining what he means. Sam Riley plays Curtis incredibly well. He captures the reticence and the charisma which existed together. Curtis expressed himself through his music- and in notebooks crowded with jottings about songs and poems to be sung, even in one case a notebook with novel scrawled on the title page. Curtis died though not because of privacy. The society that he lived in was one where privacy was valued more than anything else and not all committed suicide. Quite why he died, remains in real life a mystery to most. In the film though an explanation of sorts is given. Curtis was trapped in a marriage conducted far too early in his life. Samantha Morton plays the part of Debbie Curtis brilliantly. The strongest character in the film, Debbie seems at the beginning to be the very definition of a wet blanket. She agrees to everything that Curtis says- whether its getting married or having a kid. But there is something truly resilient about Debbie, at the end of the film you know that she, unlike him, is a survivor, she can endure. Debbie grows far more than Ian in the film, far more than him she appreciates the ordinary things of life and far more than him is connected to them.

Curtis was, by the film's account, an appalling husband. He was unable to repay Debbie. Locked in his own world of creativity, he refused at times to even answer her when she knocked on the door of his room, refused even to climb the stairs to go to bed with her. He is so self focused, that at one point he even asks her whether she wants to sleep with other men. There are enough indications in the film to demonstrate that Curtis by the end found that he was dependent on Debbie but not attracted to her. Rather everything romantic in his nature went out to his Belgian girlfriend Annik. Annik is in this film played as a beautiful and intelligent fantasy for Curtis. Their relationship was never entirely real- but there is no question that Annik attracted him. She is presented at first as a vision off the centre of the camera and in many ways that is what she remains.

Alongside this there is Curtis's worsening epilepsy. Curtis the film implies suffered from degenerating epilepsy. He was frightened of holding his own baby in case he might have a fit and collapse. The drugs he took to help him destabilised his mind and contributed to his inability to cope, to his suicide. We see how towards the end Curtis was unable to appear on stage. He suffered fits whilst playing his music. The music became quite disturbing- listen to a song like 'She's losing control' about a girl who had an epileptic fit in front of him at the employment agency in which he worked and you can hear it. Curtis was also losing control of his own life: right up until very late he worked at the employment exchange in Manchester but was increasingly unable to work there, finding it difficult to stay awake on the job because of the cocktail of drugs that he was taking and the insomnia they induced.

Corbijn manages to capture that for you on screen. The black and white cinematography starts off being a picture of the grim streets of the north west, bereft at the time that Curtis grew up of excitement for him. But by the end the black and white screen mirrors in its unreality the pain of Curtis's existence. The way that his life itself was spinning out of reality. The way that he thought that there was no escape from his illness, from his marriage and his affair (where he wanted two women, one for dependence, one for love) and was tempted by the romantic possibility of killing himself. The film ends in a cacophony of song and story, as Curtis commits suicide offstage.

The camera pans away from Curtis at the end, we don't see the suicide, rather we see its consequences. The film ends on a wrenching scream, the screams of those left behind to work out the meaning of this tragic death.

Control comes out in the UK on 5th October, review crossposted from Bits of News.

October 02, 2007

Website Fun

Two mates of mine run an advertising agency called Nonsense- anyway they're just setting up a website and want people to vote on various different designs (bit of a gimmick). The designs are all cool- so it might be worth your while just to go and have a look and vote. The website is over here and well worth a look for all interested in internet design.

Boris

James has just reminded me that Boris Johnson is running for Mayor of London with this post of effusive praise. Having read what James said, I think its time for something else to have an airing, because James didn't comment on how good Johnson was as a footballer. Whether you like football or not, just take a look at Boris's approach to tackling...

Its a wonder he isn't playing for England!

My Influences

Dave Cole has asked me to write about the five people who have most influenced my politics during my lifetime. That's not as easy a question as it seems. I have decided to leave out personal influences- partly because it would be hard to decide between individuals, partly because I don't want people to be associated without their permission with my views and partly just because it might get too pious. I have been influenced by tons of people through my life- my father and mother, uncle, brother, several of my friends (who know who they are), teachers both at school, at Oxford and Cambridge and even bloggers have influenced the way I think. But for this exercise I want to concentrate particularly on people I have never met. This is not a list of the most intelligent people I have ever read, but of the people who influenced my intellectual growth most and many of the insights I drew from them may well be inaccurate understandings of their work.

Anyway here is the list for interest's sake:

1. Edward Gibbon

I read Gibbon's Decline and Fall for the first time when I was 15, I return to it all the time. He nourished my development as a historian. Gibbon had this stunning perception of the world as a whole- his history is vast. It is 3,000 pages long in my edition, it covers over a thousand years of history (from c. 180AD to 1453AD) and it describes the fall of the West Roman Empire, the fall of the East Roman Empire, the emergeance of the Western European state system, the rise of Islam, the Hunnic invasions and their roots on the borders of China, Roman Philosophy, Theological disputes in early Christianity (its still the main thing I have read on the Arians and Athanasians) and the decline of a republic into a despotism. Gibbon awoke in me a respect for the ancient world, I have never quite lost, a respect for republicanism not just as a political philosophy but as a way of living soberly and sensibly and rationally.

2. Isaiah Berlin

Berlin was someone I discovered when I was 17. Listening to a radio program, I heard him interviewed by Michael Ignatieff. Having heard him, I went out the next day and bought every single one of his books that I could find. Berlin stood and stands for me in part as a representative of a culture which I aspire to. As a fellow of All Souls in the 1930s he was involved in political, philosophical and literary conversation. He read and knew Boris Pasternak, John Austin and Felix Frankfurter. As important as that diverse intellectual social life was to me, it was Berlin's celebration in his work of pluralism that I learnt most from. For Berlin didn't believe at all in planning or utopia- Berlin's arguments were concerned with defending the individuality of human beings and the fact that moral choices were never easily reduced to a right or wrong answer. Rather Berlin argued that morality boils down to tragedy more often than not- for example the tragedy of government reducing freedom or allowing the poor to starve. Berlin's pluralism which acknowledged that tragedy is a political philosophy which deeply appeals to me.

3. Friederich Hayek

Hayek like Berlin was thoroughly aware of the evils that totalitarianism stimulated. He was the thinker that dominated my thoughts as a teenager and some of the habits I acquired then have continued till now. Hayek was the apostle of free market Capitalism, he argued for it both economically and philosophically. Hayek's intellectual legacy to me is twofold. Firstly he established for me that knowledge and the incapacity to know certain facts is at the centre of economics. The market is ultimately a device for ensuring the distribution of knowledge about demand through the system. It works better in Hayek's view than a planned economy because no planner can know the preferences of those he plans for in the way that the market can indicate. The second thing that Hayek was centrally interested in was liberty. Hayek had a very simple theory of liberty- but it is a defensible one. He was very worried about the extra-legal powers that governments might create- particularly for themselves. Hayek saw the rule of law as a concept which bound the state to treat itself as it treated those under it. I am not a Hayekian but I am sceptical of state power for reasons that he taught me.

4. Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes is a thinker I discovered at University. During my first year at Oxford I studied the Theories of State paper- and was told to read Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau and Marx. I had already read Aristotle on politics and some Rousseau. But what I read of Hobbes blew me away and during the rest of my degree at Oxford, I spent my time digesting what I had read in that week of the first year. Hobbes's model of politics which sees it as an arena of conflict between people pursuing their selfish desires and that the ultimate aim is a negative one- the provision of peace- has influenced my thinking in all kinds of ways. More than anyone I had come across previously Hobbes provided me with a model of how the state works, why things happen the way that they do and so on. His geometrical approach- where political theory is seen as the addition and subtraction of names from each other- is one that holds attractions for me as well. From Hobbes I learnt the importance of order and the importance of the state.

5. George Orwell

Before I went to Oxford I was told to read Orwell's essays. Whilst there I was frequently instructed by tutors to read and reread them- particularly his wonderful essay on politics and language. I admire most of Orwell's books- Burmese Days for example is amongst the best anti-colonialist writing- some of the novels lack a little inspiration. I suppose from Orwell though I take the idea of a non-communist left. In Down and Out in Paris and London (written whilst Orwell himself decided to spend a couple of years living as a beggar on the streets) Orwell documented in terrifying detail the experience of living in absolute poverty. This book more than any other shocked me out of my complacency and made me want to do something for the poor and dispossessed of the world- its a book I read regularly in order that I remember what kind of fate can await those who fall to the bottom end of society. In 1984 (which I think is his finest acheivement) he demonstrates to me the futility of the idea of the general will (Rousseau and Marx's way out of the misery of capitalism) by suggesting that it destroys human individuality. It demands that Winston Smith believe that 2 and 2 equal five because that is what the state says it equals. In those two books, Orwell lays out both why I think that it is essential to be in favour of moderating the market and why it is essential to be against Communist ideas.

Obviously this list is incomplete. Looking back at it, there are people who have influenced the way I think about politics as well as my political ideas. I would add some to this list that I have left off (Umberto Eco springs to mind for his wonderful destruction of conspiracy theories in the novel Foucault's Pendulum, Spinoza the great atheist philosopher of the seventeenth century, some of the people my PhD is about particularly Henry Ireton and their conception of liberty as a defence of the right of conscience to express itself and Peter Kropotkin the Russian anarchist all spring to mind as well). This is not a complete list- nor is it a list I would necessarily agree with tommorrow- but it is definitely a list of people worth reading. I don't agree with everything they say but the five men (unfortunately no women) here have been formative influences on my political thinking- they are all worth reading- why don't you, instead of reading my blog tommorrow- pick up one of them and see what you think!

I suppose I had better pass this on- but I'm not too disposed to overtly do it. So anyone who comes along consider yourself tagged. There are plenty of people who I would love to hear from and whose blogs I respect- you know who you are- so go out and write about your five political influences.

October 01, 2007

Sex or Violence

Mona Charen thinks Hollywood is wrong to worry about sex more than violence in films. Thinking about my own emotional reaction, and I can't speak either for kids or for others, its violence in films that really provokes an emotional response in me. I can't speak for others- but I have this tendency to empathise with the victim, especially if its a character that I've grown across the film to know. That's why the most shocking scene of a film I have ever seen is the end of Casino where Joe Pesci is bludgeoned to death and then buried alive. I'm not sure how I would have reacted as a child to seeing that scene, but I'm pretty sure it would have deeply upset me. I'm not sure about Charen's overall point either, I think we are exposed as kids to a lot more violence than sex, through the news if nothing else. A child today who saw the news- on a 24 hour news channel- could expect to hear and see images of Burmese monks being beaten today. Violent video games as well are marketed to a teenage audience. I'm not sure if you see as much sex as you see violence. But I'd accept contradiction. It would be really interesting to look at the way that a generation reared on images of extremity are psychologically different to generations before as well and how the images effect the consciousness.

As I hope the tone of this post demonstrates I'm not dogmatic or even convinced about this- so any discussion would add to my stock of knowledge.

Shock Doctrine


In 2005, the ex-German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder surprised his countrymen by taking a job with the Russian giant, Gazprom. The Washington Post at the time noted that "It's the sort of behavior we have -- sadly -- come to expect from some in Congress" whilst condemning the way that Schroeder's last few days in office had enabled deals for the company he was now a director of. For Naomi Klein the news would not have come as a surprise at all.


Klein's Thesis

In her latest book, Klein argues that there is a fundamental contradiction between service to the state and service to a corporation and furthermore that the Wild West capitalism of Milton Freidman and others is incompatible with democracy. She charts a story which in her view runs from the torture chambers of the Latin American dictatorships, particularly Chile, but also Argentina and Bolivia in the seventies, through the reconstruction of Eastern Europe and Russia in the nineties and into the war in Iraq and the aftermath of the tsunami in the early part of this century. She suggests that all the events of the last forty years have something in common. A massive shock, whether by natural disaster, war or even internal coup becomes the prelude to massive economic reforms, which in the normal course of events noone in that society would ever endorse.

Klein's thesis is historical and charts the evolution of the way that these shocks form a starting point for massive structural reform. From Pinochet's torture in the 1970s, which she argues psychologically damaged the Chilean population and made them unwilling to revolt, right up until Tianamen Square, she suggests that dictatorships have used the pressure of torture to prepare the way for in-egalitarian economic reform. That isn't the only part of her story though. For she attempts to demonstrate that the same dynamic works in democracies. In the aftermath of the Falklands War, she suggests that the UK came together and that Margaret Thatcher was able to introduce reforms she never would have attempted before. The same thing happened in 1990 after the fall of the Soviet Union. Eastern European states faced for the first time the explosion of democracy and they too resorted to economic reform, against the wishes of their electorates, at great speed. Economists like Jeffrey Sacks advised them to go very fast in reforming their countries- such dislocations meant that the reform in Sacks's thinking would become embedded and also that the population would be too cowered to object.

Shocks whether external or internal create for Klein a moment outside of the normal process of every day politics. A moment of dictatorship for a democratic regime- you might say that the Bush administration faced just such a moment on September 11th. She suggests that corporate capitalism now runs on the basis of such shocks. That the major companies of the world now invest in disaster prevention, they have in her words hollowed out the state, and present solutions to the problems of war or disaster which enable them to profit out of it. She argues that this establishes a disaster complex that in economies like Israel, make the economic logic of the situation lead to further wars. Furthermore these companies then agitate against policies that would lead to fewer disasters- the classic example in her mind being the corporate case against global warming. The rich who run the companies ultimately don't suffer from disaster- but the poor do- as Hurricane Katrina in her view demonstrated the rich are able to buy protection, medical care and other things whereas the poor are neglected and treated as criminals.

Klein's Blindnesses

Klein offers us a historical narrative, the problem is that she is trying to make a point in political philosophy via her historical narrative. She doesn't devote that much time to making philosophical points, they arise by inference from the narrative. And that exposes her to writing something which for all its historical coherence, may not be philosophically coherent. I'm not qualified to write about the history that Klein scans- some of it, in particular the mismanagement of the Iraqi utilities by American contractors I can endorse but there are large swathes of Klein's book, the internal politics of Bolivia, that I would turn over to others to critique. But I do think that Klein misses some major points, and its worth just pausing to reflect on these misses before you accept her underlying thesis.

The first of these misses is that capitalism and corruption are uniquely bound together. She establishes that there is a conveyor belt which takes politicians to corporate jobs, and directors to political jobs, that is particularly true in the United States. She asks some legitimate questions- when Henry Kissinger met Bush and Cheney, did he meet them as an ex Secretary of State (his job thirty years before) or as the Chairman of Kissinger Associates. Donald Rumsfeld never divested himself of his major stock options, particularly in health companies, despite presiding over the privatisation of the health care system for American soldiers returning home. George Bush's father is a member of the Carlyle Group which has profited directly from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We could go further- but it isn't necessary. Klein's point is that capitalism as practised in the US is corrupting, there isn't really much argument on that point. But there could be an argument that its uniquely corrupting- it might beafter-all human nature that produces corruption and not capitalism alone. For example, plenty of the leading Nazis were personally very corrupt, inside a system that definitely wasn't capitalist. So were many of the leading communists in the USSR and so was famously the ancien regime in Europe. Corruption is a worry that goes back to Rome if not before.

She also, rightly again, points out the ways that ideologues from the Heritage foundation and Chicago University have used moments of crisis to impose a purist view of their ideology. Again that isn't unique to capitalism. Intellectuals of the left have often flooded into dictatorships to offer their advice at moments of shock. The French Revolution and the Russian Revolution were used as Klein admits to introduce massive changes which never would have been democratically acceptable. Perhaps to use John Gray's formulation it is market fundamentalism which is anti-democratic but in the same way that socialist or any other fundamentalism is, it fails to deal with the crooked timber of humanity, forcing it into straight lines and straight purposes. Like Mr Wickfield in David Copperfield, the economist measures by only one indicy and hence measures nothing of use to anyone not using that indicator. In that sense Klein's radical case, becomes another repetition of the conservative case- distrust ideologues, distrust quick decisions.

Lastly there is another problem inside Klein's thinking and that is the complete lack of a positive alternative. Klein points at several moments in the book to administrations or policies she approves of. She points to South American economic policy in the fifties and sixties, to Scandinavian economies and to the self help efforts of Thai peasants to rebuild their own villages after the tsunami. That's all very well. But of course, there are problems in all the systems that she offers to us. Keynesian big governmental management can end in as much corruption as capitalism. Klein detects where the big areas for the left are- the Economist magazine recently admitted that the Scandinavian model represented a way forwards- and libertarian socialism is an idea whose time may be coming back. She doesn't reflect on any of these ideas, she offers no thoughts of her own but endorses them all. This is a problem in a book that wants to be an inspirational philosophical tool for the left. Klein takes Chomskyite ideas a little further, but she hasn't really devoted herself to an alternative. Perhaps that is something she should consider. Interestingly she believes that globalisation increases inequality and poverty but never mentions the Marxist view that such inequality leads to revolution and the establishment of a new society.

There are also deep problems in her history. Occasionally Klein links things in such a way as to imply a causal connection where none can actually be found. Perhaps most important is the way that she implies in chapters one and two of the book a connection between the thinking of Dr. Ewen Cameron and Milton Friedman. Cameron advocated in the early fifties a method of psychiatric treatment which included the deliberate annihilation of the personality of the patient concerned. His techniques were taken up by torturers in the CIA. Friedman, Klein tells us, was the other doctor shock. What she never does is establish anything more than an analogy between the two people- at times she implies a connection but she never establishes that connection. Tocounter-pose them so often, and draw so many parallels and allege a connection, one has to show that there is one. Klein doesn't.

Furthermore there isn't enough accident in this history. In real life accident, luch and chance provide much of the incident, but for Klein accident seems separate. There are particular examples when it seemed to this author, Klein played fast and loose with the truth. She uses Tianamen to explore the experience of Shock Doctrine, and is right that the events in the square were objections to reform as much as to communism. But she is wrong to suggest that China was able to reform more because of Tianamen. The power of the communist party meant that it could decide what it wished in China- it still can. The party decided in the late seventies that reform was the way to go, Tianamen was a mere episode in that process but it was not crucial. One gets the sense that she needed to write something about China and forced the example into her theme rather than treating it through its own merits.


Capitalism, Liberalism and Democracy

Klein doesn't offer any positive picture, what she does though is suggest some negatives about the Freidmanite view of Capitalism. Simply put, the simple equation between capitalism, liberalism and democracy is one that she undermines. Her view is that capitalism creates centres of power which are far from the democratic arena. These centres of power influence and can control democratically elected politicians through the use of money and offices.Essentially in a a capitalist society profit is the only motivating force and therefore there is no moral imperative holding politicians back from corruption, holding Schroeder back from the Russians.

There is a further point here that she makes but doesn't really develop. Civic virtue is different to the virtue created in the market place. Frequently Klein argues that the big contractors employed by the Americans in Iraq have placed their bottom line ahead of the public good- the hollowing out of the state is a problem she argues for the precisely the same reasons that tax farming was a problem in 18th Century Europe. No contractor is interested really in the outcome that the state wants, they are interested in making profit- and if it costs less to subvert the process or install layers of contractors to insulate against legal risk then that is what they will do. In part Klein argues this is the reason why despite so many millions spent on aid to Iraq or to the tsunami affected areas, nothing happened. The same thing goes for liberalism- if companies evolve promising security and in order to achieve that security they have to torture, they will torture. Again the legal and political systems as in Iraq with reference to the contractors can be and have been corrupted at a cheaper rate than it costs to offer the service.

What Klein is arguing for is some kind of mixed economy. There is plenty to agree with in her rebuttal of the wilder claims its advocates make for capitalism. But there are still some worrying issues in this account.After-all most regimes suffer acutely from corruption, most ideologues take opportunities to ignore due process (I know many personally on the left who have this point of view). It isn't enough to merely say capitalism is bad- you have to as well suggest an alternative. Otherwise you go down a route that at times Klein- and definitely Noam Chomsky- are in danger of going down- praising regimes such as Serbia simply because they are not Capitalist.

This book is deeply flawed. It is also impressive. Klein has done a lot of research, been helped by a lot of people. There are things that might be improved but still there are many things that can be learnt. Reading about torture procedures in Iraq is chilling, reading about the way that private contractors have been employed since September 11th is frightening (at times Klein's book is similar to a long extract from the British anti-establishment magazine Private Eye!) and reading about the callous ways that economists have dismissed at conferences and on television programs the deaths of thousands and unemployment of millions is shaming. That opens up another problem with Klein's argument: she never takes on her opponents where they are strongest but only when they are at their weakest. As a polemical strategy that might work, as an intellectual one it is deeply corrupting. But there are still things missing from this book that would have made it better.

Shock Doctrine is an interesting but deeply flawed book. There are many problems within it, but there are also good things. It is a very long book, coming in at over 400 pages and it is a dense read. Klein can do style but perhaps she could learn brevity as well. It is a book that this reviewer is deeply ambivalent about: I accept that there are problems about capitalism in the modern world, I'm not so sure that Klein will convince many or offers interesting answers to what we do about those problems. She makes many mistakes in this book: if I knew the history better I am sure I could find more- but she has also done some good investigative reporting. Like a Michael Moore film, Shock Doctrine is good reportage, bad history and bad philosophy.

Ultimately Klein's argument is really a conservative one. Utopias and universal solutions don't work! How ironic to have it coming from a professed radical.

Crossposted at Bits of News.

September 30, 2007

Left List

Worth noting that to compliment Iain Dale's recent blogging lists, Andy at Socialist Unity has put up his own list of the best left wing blogs around.