Naomi Klein at Berkeley, California, September 2014.
|Born||May 8, 1970|
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Occupation||Author, activist, professor|
|Alma mater||University of Toronto|
|Subject||Alter-globalization, anti-war, anti-capitalism, environmentalism|
|Notable works||This Changes Everything, No Logo, The Shock Doctrine|
Naomi Klein (born May 8, 1970) is a Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization and of capitalism. On a three-year appointment from September 2018, she is the Gloria Steinem Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University.
Klein first became known internationally for her alter-globalization book No Logo (1999). The Take (2004), a documentary film about Argentina's occupied factories, written by her and directed by her husband Avi Lewis, further increased her profile, while The Shock Doctrine (2007), a critical analysis of the history of neoliberal economics, solidified her standing as a prominent activist on the international stage. The Shock Doctrine was adapted into a six-minute companion film by Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón, as well as a feature-length documentary by Michael Winterbottom. Klein's This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014) was a New York Times non-fiction bestseller and the winner of the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
In 2016, Klein was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize for her activism on climate justice. Klein frequently appears on global and national lists of top influential thinkers, including the 2014 Thought Leaders ranking compiled by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute,Prospect magazine's world thinkers 2014 poll, and Maclean's 2014 Power List. She is a member of the board of directors of the climate activist group 350.org.
Naomi Klein was born in Montreal, Quebec, and brought up in a Jewish family with a history of peace activism. Her parents were self-described "hippies" who emigrated from the United States in 1967 as war resisters to the Vietnam War. Her mother, documentary film-maker Bonnie Sherr Klein, is best known for her anti-pornography film Not a Love Story. Her father, Michael Klein, is a physician and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her brother, Seth Klein, is an author and the former director of the British Columbia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Before World War II, her paternal grandparents were communists, but they began to turn against the Soviet Union after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. In 1942, her grandfather, an animator at Disney, was fired after the 1941 strike, and had to switch to working in a shipyard instead. By 1956, they had abandoned communism. Klein's father grew up surrounded by ideas of social justice and racial equality, but found it "difficult and frightening to be the child of Communists", a so-called red diaper baby.
Klein's husband, Avi Lewis, was born into a political and journalistic family. His grandfather, David Lewis, was an architect and leader of the federal New Democratic Party, while his father, Stephen Lewis, was a leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party. Avi Lewis works as a TV journalist and documentary filmmaker. The couple's only child, son Toma, was born on June 13, 2012.
Klein spent much of her teenage years in shopping malls, obsessed with designer labels. As a child and teenager, she found it "very oppressive to have a very public feminist mother" and she rejected politics, instead embracing "full-on consumerism".
She has attributed her change in worldview to two catalysts. One was when she was 17 and preparing for the University of Toronto, her mother had a stroke and became severely disabled. Naomi, her father, and her brother took care of Bonnie through the period in hospital and at home, making educational sacrifices to do so. That year off prevented her "from being such a brat". The next year, after beginning her studies at the University of Toronto, the second catalyst occurred: the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre of female engineering students, which proved to be a wake-up call to feminism.
Klein's writing career began with contributions to The Varsity, a student newspaper, where she served as editor-in-chief. After her third year at the University of Toronto, she dropped out of university to take a job at The Globe and Mail, followed by an editorship at This Magazine. In 1995, she returned to the University of Toronto with the intention of finishing her degree but left academia for a journalism internship before acquiring the final credits required to complete her degree.
In 1999, Klein published the book No Logo, which for many became a manifesto of the anti-globalization movement. In it, she attacks brand-oriented consumer culture and the operations of large corporations. She also accuses several such corporations of unethically exploiting workers in the world's poorest countries in pursuit of greater profits. In this book, Klein criticized Nike so severely that Nike published a point-by-point response.No Logo became an international bestseller, selling over one million copies in over 28 languages.
Klein's Fences and Windows (2002) is a collection of her articles and speeches written on behalf of the anti-globalization movement (all proceeds from the book go to benefit activist organizations through The Fences and Windows Fund).
The Take (2004), a documentary film collaboration by Klein and Lewis, concerns factory workers in Argentina who took over a closed plant and resumed production, operating as a collective. The first African screening was in the Kennedy Road shack settlement in the South African city of Durban, where the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement began.
Klein's third book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, was published on September 4, 2007. The book argues that the free market policies of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics have risen to prominence in countries such as Chile, under Pinochet, Poland, Russia, under Yeltsin. The book also argues that policy initiatives (for instance, the privatization of Iraq's economy under the Coalition Provisional Authority) were rushed through while the citizens of these countries were in shock from disasters, upheavals, or invasion. The book became an international and New York Times bestseller and was translated into 28 languages.
Central to the book's thesis is the contention that those who wish to implement unpopular free market policies now routinely do so by taking advantage of certain features of the aftermath of major disasters, be they economic, political, military or natural. The suggestion is that when a society experiences a major 'shock' there is a widespread desire for a rapid and decisive response to correct the situation; this desire for bold and immediate action provides an opportunity for unscrupulous actors to implement policies which go far beyond a legitimate response to disaster. The book suggests that when the rush to act means the specifics of a response will go unscrutinized, that is the moment when unpopular and unrelated policies will intentionally be rushed into effect. The book appears to claim that these shocks are in some cases intentionally encouraged or even manufactured.
The Shock Doctrine was adapted into a short film of the same name, released onto YouTube. The original is no longer available on the site, however, a duplicate was published in 2008. The film was directed by Jonás Cuarón, produced and co-written by his father Alfonso Cuarón. The original video was viewed over one million times.
The publication of The Shock Doctrine increased Klein's prominence, with The New Yorker judging her "the most visible and influential figure on the American left--what Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky were thirty years ago." On February 24, 2009, the book was awarded the inaugural Warwick Prize for Writing from the University of Warwick in England. The prize carried a cash award of £50,000.
Klein's fourth book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate was published in September 2014. The book puts forth the argument that the hegemony of neoliberal market fundamentalism is blocking any serious reforms to halt climate change and protect the environment. Questioned about Klein's claim that capitalism and controlling climate change were incompatible, Benoit Blarel, manager of the Environment and Natural Resources global practice at the World Bank, said that the write-off of fossil fuels necessary to control climate change "will have a huge impact all over" and that the World Bank was "starting work on this". The book won the 2014 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, and was a shortlisted nominee for the 2015 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.
Klein's fifth book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need was published in June 2017. It has also been published Internationally with the alternative subtitle Defeating the New Shock Politics.
Released in June 2018 as paperback and e-book, The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists covers what San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz refers to as the post-Hurricane Maria unmasked colonialism leading to inequality and "creating a fierce humanitarian crisis."
In April 2019, Simon & Schuster announced they would be publishing Klein's seventh book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, which was published on September 17, 2019.On Fire is a collection of essays focusing on climate change and the urgent actions needed to preserve the world. Klein relates her meeting with Greta Thunberg in the opening essay in which she discusses the entrance of young people into those speaking out for climate awareness and change. She supports the Green New Deal throughout the book and in the final essay she discusses the 2020 U.S. election stating: "The stakes of the election are almost unbearably high. It's why I wrote the book and decided to put it out now and why I'll be doing whatever I can to help push people toward supporting a candidate with the most ambitious Green New Deal platform--so that they win the primaries and then the general."
Klein has written about the Iraq War. In "Baghdad Year Zero" (Harper's Magazine, September 2004), Klein argues that, contrary to popular belief, the George W. Bush administration did have a clear plan for post-invasion Iraq: to build a completely unconstrained free market economy. She describes plans to allow foreigners to extract wealth from Iraq and the methods used to achieve those goals. Her "Baghdad Year Zero" was one of the inspirations for the 2008 film War, Inc.
Klein's "Bring Najaf to New York" (The Nation, August 2004) argued that Muqtada Al Sadr's Mahdi Army "represents the overwhelmingly mainstream sentiment in Iraq" and that, if he were elected, "Sadr would try to turn Iraq into a theocracy like Iran," although his immediate demands were for "direct elections and an end to foreign occupation".Marc Cooper, a former Nation columnist, attacked the assertion that Al Sadr represented mainstream Iraqi sentiment and that American forces had brought the war to the holy city of Najaf. "Klein should know better," he wrote. "All enemies of the U.S. occupation she opposes are not her friends. Or ours. Or those of the Iraqi people. I don't think that Mullah Al Sadr, in any case, is much desirous of support issuing from secular Jewish feminist-socialists."
Klein signed a 2004 petition entitled "We would vote for Hugo Chávez". In 2007, she described Venezuela under the Chávez government as a country where "citizens had renewed their faith in the power of democracy to improve their lives," and described Venezuela as a place sheltered by Chávez's policies from the economic shocks produced by capitalism. Rather, according to Klein, Chávez protected his country from financial crisis by building "a zone of relative economic calm and predictability." According to reviewer Todd Gitlin, who described the overall argument of Klein's book The Shock Doctrine (2007) as "more right than wrong," Klein is "a romantic," who expected that the Chávez government would produce a bright future in which worker-controlled co-operatives would run the economy.The Shock Doctrine was consistent with her prior thinking about globalization, and in that book she describes Chávez' policies as an example of public control of some sectors of the economy as protecting poor people from harm caused by globalization. After the collapse of the Venezuelan economy and alleged erosion of its democratic institutions under Chávez' successor Nicolás Maduro, Klein and other people who had supported Chávez were criticized by writers such as James Kirchick and Mark Milke.
In March 2008, Klein was the keynote speaker at the first national conference of the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians. In January 2009, during the Gaza War, Klein supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, arguing that "the best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa."
In summer 2009, on the occasion of the publication of the Hebrew translation of her book The Shock Doctrine, Klein visited Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, combining the promotion of her book and the BDS campaign. In an interview to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz she emphasized that it is important to her "not to boycott Israelis but rather to boycott the normalization of Israel and the conflict." In a speech in Ramallah on June 27, she apologized to the Palestinians for not joining the BDS campaign earlier. Her remarks, particularly that "[Some Jews] even think we get one get-away-with-genocide-free card" were characterized by Noam Schimmel, an op-ed columnist in The Jerusalem Post, as "violent" and "unethical", and as the "most perverse of aspersions on Jews, an age-old stereotype of Jews as intrinsically evil and malicious."
Klein was also a spokesperson for the protest against the spotlight on Tel Aviv at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, a spotlight that Klein said was a very selective and misleading portrait of Israel.
Indeed the three policy pillars of the neoliberal age--privatization of the public sphere, deregulation of the corporate sector, and the lowering of income and corporate taxes, paid for with cuts to public spending--are each incompatible with many of the actions we must take to bring our emissions to safe levels. And together these pillars form an ideological wall that has blocked a serious response to climate change for decades.-- Naomi Klein
Since 2009, Klein's attention has turned to environmentalism, with particular focus on climate change, the subject of her book This Changes Everything (2014). According to her website, the book and its accompanying film (released in 2015) will be about "how the climate crisis can spur economic and political transformation." She sits on the board of directors of campaign group 350.org and took part in their "Do the Math" tour in 2013, encouraging a divestment movement.
She has encouraged the Occupy movement to join forces with the environmental movement, saying the financial crisis and the climate crisis have the same root--unrestrained corporate greed. She gave a speech at Occupy Wall Street where she described the world as "upside down", where we act as if "there is no end to what is actually finite--fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions," and as if there are "limits to what is actually bountiful--the financial resources to build the kind of society we need."
She has been a particularly vocal critic of the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, describing it in a TED talk as a form of "terrestrial skinning." On September 2, 2011, she attended the demonstration against the Keystone XL pipeline outside the White House and was arrested. Klein celebrated Obama's decision to postpone a decision on the Keystone pipeline until 2013 pending an environmental review as a victory for the environmental movement.
She attended the Copenhagen Climate Summit of 2009. She put the blame for the failure of Copenhagen on President Barack Obama, and described her own country, Canada, as a "climate criminal." She presented the Angry Mermaid Award (a satirical award designed to recognise the corporations who have best sabotaged the climate negotiations) to Monsanto.
Writing in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, she warned that the climate crisis constitutes a massive opportunity for disaster capitalists and corporations seeking to profit from crisis. But equally, the climate crisis "can be a historic moment to usher in the next great wave of progressive change," or a so-called "People's Shock."
On November 9, 2016, following the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, Klein called for an international campaign to impose economic sanctions on the United States if his administration refuses to abide by the terms of the Paris Agreement.
Klein contributes to The Nation, In These Times, The Globe and Mail, This Magazine, Harper's Magazine, and The Guardian, and is a senior contributor for The Intercept. She is a former Miliband Fellow and lectured at the London School of Economics on the anti-globalization movement. Her appointment as the inaugural Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University-New Brunswick began in October 2018 and runs for 3 years. The position is funded by foundations, endowments and individuals.
Klein ranked 11th in an internet poll of the top global intellectuals of 2005, a list of the world's top 100 public intellectuals compiled by the Prospect magazine in conjunction with Foreign Policy magazine. She was involved in 2010 G-20 Toronto summit protests, condemning police force and brutality. She spoke to a rally seeking the release of protesters in front of police headquarters on June 28, 2010.
On October 6, 2011, she visited Occupy Wall Street and gave a speech declaring the protest movement "the most important thing in the world". On November 10, 2011, she participated in a panel discussion about the future of Occupy Wall Street with four other panelists, including Michael Moore, William Greider, and Rinku Sen, in which she stressed the crucial nature of the evolving movement. Klein also made an appearance in the British radio show Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 in 2017.
Klein was a key instigator of the Leap Manifesto, a political manifesto issued in the context of the 2015 Canadian federal election focused on addressing the climate crisis through restructuring the Canadian economy and dealing with issues of income and wealth inequality, racism, and colonialism. The manifesto has been noted as an influence in the development of the Green New Deal and eventually led to the establishment of The Leap, an organization that works to promote the realization of the principles behind the original manifesto.
In November 2019, along with other public figures, Klein signed a letter supporting Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn describing him as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world" and endorsed him in the 2019 UK general election.
I am extremely happy to announce that Naomi Klein has joined The Intercept as senior correspondent.