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Naomi Klein, October 2011
|Born|| May 8, 1970 |
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Spouse(s)||Avi Lewis (1 child)|
Naomi Klein, October 2011
|Born|| May 8, 1970 |
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Spouse(s)||Avi Lewis (1 child)|
Naomi Klein (born May 8, 1970) is a Canadian author and social activist known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization. She is best known for No Logo, a book that went on to become an international bestseller, and The Shock Doctrine, a critical analysis of the history of neoliberal economics.
Naomi Klein was born in Montreal, Quebec, and brought up in a Jewish family with a history of peace activism. Her parents had 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 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, works as 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 Central Europe for Canada in 1921. The couple's first 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 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. 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 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 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.
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).
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.
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 28 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, Poland, Russia, under Yeltsin, and the United States (for example, the privatization of the New Orleans Public Schools after Hurricane Katrina). 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.
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 film was directed by Jonás Cuarón, produced and co-written by his father Alfonso Cuarón. The video has been 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 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 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 27 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 by 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.
In recent years[when?] Klein’s attention has turned to environmentalism, with particular focus on climate change, about which she is currently writing a book. According to her website, the book and a new film 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 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'.
She 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.
In May 2011, Klein received an honorary degree from Saint Thomas University.
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.
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