The Shock Doctrine – How the Rich use the State of Shock to Profit 

Dear friends,

In the time of a global pandemic, it is more than ever relevant to be aware. To understand how the corporations and the rich will try to profit from the current state of the world, with fear and confusion. Therefore, we share with you a study task from our archive based on Naomi Klein’s book “The shock doctrine”. The book goes into the recent history of the US using the technique of shock – such as aftermaths of natural and economic disasters to profit from it. It will give you new insight about how Coronavirus has the same potential. We would like to hear what you think of the topic on our new FB group “DNS online learners” (find the link bellow). We will work on sharing more study tasks in the coming days.

How does the study assignment work?

1.Read the “Introduction” of the assignment bellow to introduce yourself with the topic

2. Read the “Directives” at the bottom to see what you should do to complete the assignment.

 If you have any questions feel free to use our live-chat in the right bottom corner, otherwise lets get to it!


The Shock Doctrine

Subject: Big Issues of our Time

Description: The task is to study the concept of “Shock Doctrine” through examples of global events and their analysis as well as its connection to the neo-liberal policies of privatization and redistribution.

Length: Approximately 4 hours


Shock is a word of French origin that means a collision; it refers to a violent event that shakes up a person. In psychiatry, a shock is a mental reaction to a traumatic event such as an accident, a very frightening situation, or a tragic event. Such events may cause an acute stress reaction whereby a great number of stress hormones are released by the action of the brain, preparing the person to ‘flee or fight’ and can be useful if you suddenly meet a lion in the bush – but if a shock is very severe it may paralyze you so you become disoriented and even unable to remember what is happening.

 After World War I, where soldiers endured horrible battles in the trenches of Europe, it was observed that a great many soldiers suffered mental problems. They had trouble relating to other people, to concentrate, to control anger, to sleep, and to function normally. Doctors at the time called this condition “Shell Shock” referring to the fact that many soldiers had endured shelling from bombs that killed people around them. Soldiers and civilians continue to suffer the same trauma in the many wars fought the world over.

Today the condition is called PTSD for (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). This medical abbreviation sounds less menacing than “shell shock” and is therefore preferred by military officials who do not like people to understand the real horrors of war. Shock is present in several other contexts. Since the 1990s, “Shock and Awe” has been used by the US military to describe a tactic whereby you attack an enemy with such speed and ferocity that his defences become paralyzed.

The Canadian journalist, Naomi Klein, has used the term Shock Doctrine. She describes its many aspects in a very thorough study. By shock doctrine, she means the use of a real or a perceived violent event or threat of violence as a shock that enables those in power to get things their way. In particular, she explains how shocks since the 1970s, have been used to introduce neoliberal economic policies around the world. She goes through many examples where a country or government has been forced to open its borders and economies to multinational companies, to privatize industries, to limit the rights of workers, to lower wages, to cut social services, and to increase the gap between rich and poor.



  1. Watch the film “The Shock Doctrine”. See it on youtube here.  (1,5 hours)
  2. Read the two files  : History Front, “The Shock Doctrine”, pages 1186-1190 and History Front, “Friedman”, pages 1399-1403. (1,5 hours)
    Find the file on our dropbox.
  3. Point out an example where your own country has been a victim of shock tactics, and explain what the shock was and how it was used to push neo-liberal reforms (reforms that open the country to foreign investors and limits the national governments’ freedom to regulate the economy to the benefit of people).
  4. Find another case in any country where the shock doctrine is being applied during the 2008 financial crisis or the Corona outbreak.
  5. Discuss your answers with another person. You can find one in our FB study group, or by yourself
  6. Share your writings and own conclusion on Facebook group.
  7. Join our livecall and share your thoughts about the study task (will be anounced soon, join the FB group to get to know about it.

Naomi Klein – Author of the book “The shock doctrine” is a Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate Globalization and of capitalism. 

DNS The Necessary Teacher Training College - non-traditional university

“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.” – Milton Friedman

DNS The Necessary Teacher Training College - non-traditional university

Hurricane Katrina example

One of the most shameless examples of the Shock Doctrine was in New Orleans, USA, after the 2005 hurricane Katrina. After a huge devastation to the population of the city many new policies were introduced that would otherwise not have been possible. Read more about it in the dropbox files.

DNS The Necessary Teacher Training College - non-traditional university

Milton Friedman (on the left) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics and the Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan. Many hold him responsible for disastrous consequences caused by his neo-liberal theories.

99 ways to fight capitalism

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