Naomi Klein (Author/Activist)
Naomi Klein (born May 8, 1970) is a Canadian author and activist known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization.
Klein was born in Montreal, Quebec and brought up in a Jewish family with a history of left-wing activism. Her parents moved to Montreal from the U.S. 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 director of the British Columbia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Her paternal grandparents were communists who began to turn against the Soviet Union after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and had abandoned communism by 1956. In 1942 her grandfather Phil Klein, an animator at Disney, was fired as an agitator after the Disney animators' strike, and went to work at a shipyard instead.
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, also comes from a leftist background. He is a TV journalist and documentary filmmaker. His parents are the writer and activist Michele Landsberg and politician and diplomat Stephen Lewis, son of David Lewis, one of the founders of the Canadian New Democratic Party, son in turn of Moishe Lewis, born Losz, a Jewish labour activist of "the Bund" who left Eastern Europe for Canada in 1921.
Klein and her husband live in Toronto.
Klein spent much of her teenage years in shopping malls, obsessed with designer logos. 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 events. 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 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 event occurred: the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre of female engineering students, which proved to be a wake-up call to feminism.
Klein's writing career started 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 Toronto Globe and Mail, followed by an editorship at This Magazine, the Canadian equivalent of the American magazine The Nation. In 1995, she returned to the University of Toronto to finish her degree but left the university for a journalism internship before acquiring the final credits required to complete her degree.
In 2000, Klein published the book No Logo, which for many became a manifesto of the anti-corporate globalization movement. In it, she attacks brand-oriented consumer culture by describing 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 to perceived inaccuracies. No Logo became an international bestseller, selling over one million copies in over 28 languages.
In 2002 Klein published Fences and Windows, 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). Klein also contributes to The Nation, In These Times, The Globe and Mail, This Magazine, Harper's Magazine, and The Guardian.
Klein has written on various current issues, such as the Iraq War. In a September 2004 article for Harper's Magazine, she argues that, contrary to popular belief, the Bush administration did have a clear plan for post-invasion Iraq, which was 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. The 2008 film War, Inc. was partially inspired by her article, Baghdad Year Zero.
Klein's August 2004 "Bring Najaf to New York", published in The Nation, argued that Muqtada Al Sadr's Mahdi Army "represents the overwhelmingly mainstream sentiment in Iraq." She went on to say "Yes, if elected Sadr would try to turn Iraq into a theocracy like Iran, but for now his demands are 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 fight to the holy city of Najaf. Cooper wrote that "Klein should know better. 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."
In 2004, Klein and her husband, Avi Lewis, released a documentary film called The Take about 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.
At least one article in Z Communications criticized The Take for its portrayal of the Argentine general and politician Juan Domingo Peron, which they felt portrayed him as a social democrat.
Klein's third book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, was published on September 4, 2007, becoming an international and New York Times bestseller translated into 20 languages. 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, Russia under Yeltsin, and the United States (specifically, the privatization of the New Orleans Public Schools after Hurricane Katrina).
The book also argues that policy initiatives such as the privatization of Iraq's economy under the Coalition Provisional Authority were pushed through while the citizens of these countries were in shock from disasters or upheavals. It is also claimed that these shocks are in some cases, such as the Falklands War, created with the intention of being able to push through these unpopular reforms in the wake of the crisis. Klein identifies "shock doctrine", elaborating on Joseph Schumpeter, as the latest in capitalism's phases of "creative destruction."
The Shock Doctrine was adapted into a short film of the same name, released onto YouTube. The film was directed by Jonás Cuarón, produced and co-written by his father Alfonso Cuarón. The video has been viewed over one million times.
Among positive reviews, Joseph Stiglitz wrote in The New York Times that The Shock Doctrine is an "ambitious look at the economic history of the last 50 years and the rise of free-market fundamentalism around the world," then added that Klein is "not an academic and cannot be judged as one"; John Gray, reviewing for The Guardian, describes the book as "both timely and devastating".
Among negative reviews, in a report for Cato Institute, Johan Norberg argued that Klein's analysis is flawed on virtually every level and her historical examples do not survive scrutiny. Tom Redburn, in The New York Times wrote "she essentially accuses Friedman of being the godfather of a Mafia-like gang ... There’s a measure of truth about the dark side of globalization ... but [corporatism] is a lot to lay on poor Milton." He also claimed that Klein incorrectly groups neoconservatism with neoliberals like Bill Clinton as part of a single ideology.
In The Times of London, Cole characterized The Shock Doctrine as "lucidly written and comprehensively researched" but also criticized it as "lean[ing] heavily on partisan contributions from the cuttings library and the blogosphere." Jonathan Chait, senior editor of The New Republic, criticized Klein for repeatedly ignoring when the facts contradict her arguments ("But in full defiance of everything that we know about post-war Iraq, Klein proceeds to argue that what might superficially appear to be a total failure is, in fact, the successful culmination of the war's purposes").
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.
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 Ha'aretz 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 the 27th of June, 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 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.