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“The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” In Review

The Book- The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

The Author- Naomi Klein

Two ISBN numbers were given:

ISBN-10- 0312427999

ISBN-13: 978-0312427993

Copyright– 2007 (by the author Naomi Klein)

Publisher- Picador

Publisher’s website-


How the book, and by extension this review, is organized.


The book is separated into eight sections (seven main sections and a conclusion), and twenty-one chapters. I am going to break the overview down in a similar matter so it is easy to follow. The eight sections that we will be looking into are; Two Doctor Shocks: Research and Development, The First Test: Birth Pangs, Surviving Democracy: Bombs Made of Laws, Lost in Transition: While We Wept, While We Trembled, While We Danced, Shocking Times: The Rise of the Disaster Capitalism Complex, Iraq, Full Circle: Overshock, The Moveable Green Zone: Buffer Zones and Blast Walls, and the Conclusion.


Section One- Two Doctor Shocks: Research and Development

What you need to know from Chapter One– The book starts with an examination of physical shock treatment, and its long-term and short-term affects on patients. Shock therapy is looked into from multiple fronts: how it is used as torture, how it is used in war, and how it is used as a treatment for mental illness. The chapter focuses on the work of Ewen Cameron, a doctor who thought he could use shock therapy to strip away bad behaviors and traits, and replace them with good behaviors and traits. We are introduced to one of his patients; Gail, who underwent so much therapy she has to write her experiences and thoughts down so she doesn’t forget they happened. Cameron could wipe things clean, but he couldn’t install new things. The book tries to connect the experiences of physical shock therapy to Economic shock therapy.

What you need to know from Chapter Two– The second chapter focuses on concepts we have already encountered within the course: Milton Friedman, and his theories and support of free market systems. It also discusses the creation of an American economic connection with Chile through the Chicago Boys. It’s in this chapter that we are introduced to the themes of the series Commanding Heights, but with a different anti-free market twist. It is a chapter on our government’s intervention within Latin America, and its want to try out shock therapy there.


Section Two- The First Test: Birth Pangs

What you need to know from Chapter Three– This chapter begins with the military take over of Chile by General Augusto Pinochet. It examines Chile in the context of forced economic policy, and links this forced policy to the Chicago school. The book makes its stance that shock therapy, and the Chicago Boys, were a failure. It is stated that what caught the economy of Chile, and kept it from falling, was not shock therapy: it was the fact that Chili hadn’t privatized all of its businesses some were still nationally owned. Other parts of Latin America were discussed, in relation to the Chicago School, and the Chicago Boys including; Argentina and Brazil. The main points behind the chapter were, that violence was used to install bad policies that caused poverty and unemployment to rise.

What you need to know from Chapter Four– Chapter Four had a good deal to do with the “human factor” in Latin American countries. The first portion focused on Orlando Letelier, who was from Chile, and was murdered when he spoke out against what was going on economically and politically in his country. It also discussed the consequences of the military actions that occurred in the area; including charges that were up against leaders like Pinochet. It was a chapter about reveals and cover-ups that focused on who took responsibility for the violence that occurred. It also talked about the type of violence; torture, and psychological abuse that was used. The point of the chapter was to show how far people would go to push their ideals; it seemed to also implicate the Friedman and the Chicago School as standby promoters of the violence.

What you need to know from Chapter Five– Chapter five was rather brief. Its point was to illustrate that Friedman, and promoters of his economic system, acknowledged the violence that occurred in Latin America, but did not find it to be related to the economic policy that they were promoting.


Section Three- Surviving Democracy: Bombs Made of Laws

What you need to know from Chapter Six– This is another chapter with a “counter to Commanding Heights” feel. In brings up Friedrich Hayek and Margaret Thatcher. It discusses Thatcher, and her attempts to free up the market in Britain that really hurt her image. It painted the Falkland War as a positive image adjustment for Thatcher, which it was. The point of these references seemed to be, to ease us into discussions about how crisis is used to manipulate public emotion.

What you need to know from Chapter Seven– This chapter is about Bolivia. It is another example of a country adopting Friedman policies. One of the consistent themes throughout the book is that free market policies, and shock therapy, cannot be put across in a manner that stays in line with democracy. Bolivia provided an example of a country that didn’t fall into violence, but still made choices about its economic system in a manner of backdoor deals and political pushing that would not be supported by democracy. The book also didn’t attribute any existing success to the economic program, instead establishing cocoa and cocaine as what prevented a complete disaster.

What you need to know from Chapter Eight– Chapter Eight is about being sneaky. It discusses getting countries like Argentina to accept programs that they might not under normal circumstances, because they are desperate for money and assistance. This portion of the book seems to be preparing us for future discussions about using desperation as a tool to get economic policies passed, by combining them with some other deal.


Section Four- Lost in Transition: While We Wept, While We Trembled, While We Danced

What you need to know from Chapter Nine– Poland and communism are the main topics of this chapter. It is about communism’s progression to capitalism in countries like China and Poland: with the main focus being Poland, and Poland’s union Solidarity. The main point of the chapter is to illustrate the negative feelings of people who were forced into accepting capitalism after, or during, communism through questionable means.

What you need to know from Chapter Ten– Here we will focus South Africa, and Nelson Mandela. This chapter was about the end of Apartheid, and how the people got power of their government, but lost power over their economy. When the African National Congress was in talks with the National Party (leaders during Apartheid) they felt the most important power to achieve was political power, because political power would give them the ability to change anything they gave up to the other side later. The sad reality is they got trapped in contracts and lost power over their economic system, and with that the ability to really make positive change in their country.

What you need to know from Chapter Eleven– Corruption within Russia was the main focus of Chapter Eleven. It was about the sell-off of companies within Russia that led to the creation of a few elite wealthy, and a larger group of poor. Its purpose was to showcase the failure of shock therapy in a country that was in transition from Communism to Capitalism.

What you need to know from Chapter Twelve– Chapter twelve begins with the Author visiting Jeffery Sachs to discuss his failure to help Russia. Sachs seems to believe that the failure was because the people he usually received financial help from, for countries, had become lazy. The author is setting us up for a theory that she has on markets and market competition in this chapter. The chapter also discusses techniques used in other countries, by people who support free market systems, that look a lot like cutting the countries down so the can be rebuilt to the free markets liking.

What you need to know from Chapter Thirteen– This chapter is particularly interesting. In it the author suggests that Capitalism lost its only rival with the death of Communism. Because it no longer had anything to compete with the Capitalist system lost its good policies, and its will to help other countries; like Russia, and the Asian countries that were struggling at the time. It seemed to suggest that the United States didn’t give money to Russia when they were in need because it was Russia’s fall that allowed Capitalism to rise up as the superior system.


Section Five- Shocking Times: The Rise of the Disaster Capitalism Complex

What you need to know from Chapter Fourteen– Chapter fourteen is very much about privatization, in its various forms, throughout the government. It talks about Donald Rumsfeld and his actions towards privatization of government run organizations. It also discusses how the American military is becoming more privatized: with doctors and security companies subcontracted. The main focus is privatization and the push for it by the government (Rumsfeld, the Bush Administration, etc.) within the government (the military, welfare systems, etc.) Patents and companies holding patents on things like medication were also referenced.

What you need to know from Chapter Fifteen– This chapter is a continuation of points from the previous one. It contains conversations about political leaders, like Dick Cheney, gaining money from investments in companies that profit from the governments actions, like Halliburton. One of the main discussion points was the amount of profits that were being made on things like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Profits made by companies that hold patents that give them a monopoly on a field were referenced as well.


Section Six- Iraq, Full Circle: Overshock

What you need to know about Chapter Sixteen– Chapter Sixteen is about Iraq, and the people of Iraq. The author traveled to the region in order to talk to people about the privatization that was going to occur in Iraq, and their feelings about it. The first chapter on Iraq is about the existence of the war as an aspect of shock therapy. It talked about the shock that the people experienced that separated them from awareness about their political and economic system.

What you need to know about Chapter Seventeen– This chapter was about the “disaster capitalism” aspect of Iraq. It was about exactly how Iraq was being privatized, with 200 companies that were once owned within the country being sold off. `The chapter also focused on the people of Iraq, and their anger and confusion as to what was going on in their country. It also talked about what the people turned to when their country was in shambles: religion, and the affect that it had on the interactions within the country.

What you need to know about Chapter Eighteen– A good portion of this chapter involved the topic of democracy, and democracy in Iraq. One of the declared reasons for the war in Iraq had been to bring a democracy to the country. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be a reality of the situation. Elections in the country were stalled and manipulated, according to the book, by people who wanted Iraq to be a country that supported the free market system, but knew it wouldn’t currently be embraced by the people who were voted in to positions of power.


Section Seven- The Movable Green Zone: Buffer Zones and Blast Walls

What you need to know about Chapter Nineteen– Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries affected by the tsunami were referenced in this chapter. The main focus was on Sri Lanka and the fishing communities the natives had on the beaches, that the hotels want displaced for their own purposes. When the tsunami came the fishing communities were knocked out, and officials made sure they didn’t get back on the beach. Privatization was also referenced, as it existed before and after the tsunami. Before the tsunami the privatization was being fought, but after it was pushed through.

What you need to know about Chapter Twenty– This was another focus on “disaster capitalism”, this time the location was New Orleans. The focus here also seems to be on shifts from public ownership to private ownership. It seems to suggest a trend between having to rebuild, and rebuilding via privatization. The term “disaster bubble” was used to convey the idea that the private companies that profit from disasters are building up a market that will crash when they don’t have disasters to gain money from.

What you need to know about Chapter Twenty-One– The last chapter covered the nature of aggression. One of the topics was; whether or not every seemingly man-made disaster was set up for moneymaking processes. The general consensus from the book is mankind makes disasters naturally, not intentionally. Religious fighting and fighting over the commanding heights of the economy were both referenced.


Section Eight- The Conclusion

What you need to know about themes in the conclusion– The conclusion is the only chapter of this book that makes you feel hopeful. It references the “people factor”. We are provided with another story from the tsunami of 2004, a story that is very different from the sadness and destruction of the tale of Sri Lanka. People of Thailand got their land back after a similar “land grab” that occurred after the tsunami. People rebuilding their homes by themselves in New Orleans were also highlighted as a glimmer of hope that disaster capitalism won’t always be successful.


About the Author (Naomi Klein)

What do we learn about the author from the book? Naomi Klein seems to get a good deal of her information from investigative journalism. We are introduced to this in the beginning of the book when she interviews the victim of shock therapy (Gail.) She seems to be the most comfortable when she is asking the questions; she also seems to feel free in the manner that she interprets the answers. It was an interesting contrast from the first book I read for the book review, because within that book the author (John Perkins) was speaking from direct experience.


If you want information about author Naomi Klein outside of the book- Click Here


What the Author REALLY wants you to know-

Naomi Klein does not support Friedman’s economic model. Her book seems to be a narration of why you should also not support such a system. If you took away anything at all from the book she would want you to know that the poor, and native people, suffer in developing countries that attempt to put forth free market systems. She supports countries utilizing their own resources, and feels that is a more stable than selling off companies/resources for profit. She seems to want people to re-evaluate the systems that they promote/are a part of.


How it is relevant to this class-

Income inequality is one of the main focuses of the book. In discussion about countries like Russia the separation between the wealthy elite and the poor was discussed in detail. We were also made aware that when “shock therapy” and free market systems were introduced to an area the income gap increased and more people fell into poverty. It also looked into income equality in Asia, African, and in some context our own country (when discussing New Orleans and hurricane Katrina.) It additionally discussed standard of living, especially when talking about the people of the fishing villages in Sri Lanka that were damaged in the tsunami in 2004. This discussion was particularly powerful because it made connections to the real people who were suffering because of the loss of their land: including a mother who was displaced and now struggles to care for her children in what easily would be described as slums.


What was missing-

The wording left a lot to be desired if you are looking for an unbiased wealth of information. A lot of the negative wording was unnecessary, and made the authors writings seem full of agenda. Some of it is accusable, because she is writing with a side in mind, but some of it is over the top. I would have like more focus on places like Sri Lanka, because I feel it was a good illustration of “disaster capitalism”. The portion on Sri Lanka was emotion inspiring, and it was one of the sections that felt the least biased. I feel like less focus on calling out politicians, and more stories about the actual situations and people affected would have benefitted the book.


What I learned and how it has changed me-

I remain still open to the free market system. Klein presented an argument against it that had some strength, but it focused a lot on personal attacks and linking concepts together weakly. It wasn’t enough to shut the door on free market systems in my mind. I learned quite a bit. A lot of the information on terms and economic theory I have learned from the course and my other book review already. I learned a lot I didn’t know previously from the section of South Africa and Apartheid; an example being, I wasn’t previously aware that when the power switch occurred economic power wasn’t handed over with political power. I hadn’t even considered that a government would have political power, but not economic power. I also learned that after the tsunami in 2004 donations that were meant for the people got absorbed into companies and the people only got a fraction of aid.


Would I recommend the book to friends?

I probably wouldn’t recommend the book to my friends. It wasn’t strong enough to be a “need-to-read”.


Outside of the book, where did information from this report come from?

All of the links to articles came from Wikipedia. All of the information came from the book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein.

“The Secret History if the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World” In Review

The Book- The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World

The Author- John Perkins

The Important Publishing Information


Publishing Company- The Penguin Group

Printing Company- Plume

Copyright- 2007

Websites for further information

About the Book

What you need to know to start off? The book wasn’t written by someone writing on theory, the book was written by someone who lived the life they wrote about. John Perkins was an “Economic Hit Man”: a smooth talking business man who bribed and strategized his way into deals that benefitted the companies he represented. Realizing the negative implications of his actions, and the actions of others like him, he now writes about the affects that big business has on nations that are struggling to become industrialized. When you are reading this book it feels like you are reading confessions, not only of John Perkins, but the others who came to him with their stories as well.

The book is split up into sixty-five chapters and five sections. Instead of describing the book to you in terms of the chapters I am going to do so in terms of sections, it will get less confusing that way (because the timeline isn’t consistent throughout the book.) The five sections are: Asia, Latin America, The Middle East, Africa, and Changing the World.


  • The work of women. The section on Asia started with discussion of Indonesia and Geishas. What do Geishas have to do with anything? The first two chapters aren’t the only portions of the book that mention Geishas, and other women being used as power plays. But they establish exactly what the women are used for: to gain information, influence, and favor.
  • A company’s dirty work. This section also included a chapter entitled “Sweatshops”; a title that explains itself to some extent. This chapter focuses on Indonesia, and Nike’s business practices there: focusing on exploitive practices that do not pay the workers enough for them to live outside of poverty and exhaustion (practices that occurred after Nike claimed they had improved.) Later in the section sweatshops are encountered again on a very real level. It was discussed that the minimum wage had risen, but that hadn’t helped the workers any, because just like the minimum wage, the cost of food was on the rise as well, and unfortunately so was the cost of oil. Which meant that workers often had less than what they had before the wage hike.
  • Death in the name of control. Another theme that you will notice that appeared throughout the book is: our government supporting governments in the less developed nations that do not have the best interest of their citizens in mind. East Timber was one of the first instances of this that was discussed. East Timber had just regained its independence (from Portugal) only to have it snatch away brutally by Indonesia. In an action that took the lives of two hundred thousand people, an action not only supported by the U.S. in word, but also in action, as it was the U.S. that provided the weapons.
  • Making money off of disasters. In a chapter entitled “Tsunami Profiteering” Perkins discusses how the tsunami of 2004 affected the people of a placed called Aceh (Indonesia) in both a human and economic sense. Before the tsunami the local people formed a movement (GAM), and had been fighting against companies who were taking their resources and not allocating them in a manner that helped the local community. Before the tsunami they had been making progress, after the tsunami with their numbers waining, and the number of military increasing, their progress and movement met its end.
  • Money, money, money. John Perkins, as a former Economic Hit Man, seems to be no stranger to the bribery that happens behind the scenes of business deals. At one point he was contacted on how best to bribe people in Indonesia, in a legal sense. Perkins explained methods of legal bribery; most of them involved extra money exchanging hands for services, or sending a young adult to U.S. college for free. But there wasn’t any acknowledged method for legally handing someone a large sum of cash right away.
  • Bold conquering. A lot of this book is about what happens “under the table”. As we reach the end of the section on Asia we briefly read about the opposite situation: China and their obvious and consistently present military presence in Tibet. This seems to be to prepare us for future chapters of the book.
  • In review. What did we gain from this section? This section provided us with information on the inner workings of big business, and how companies get what they want from people/communities.

Latin America

  • The Latin America: full of violence. In the first chapter we learn about the overtaking of a government, and the deaths of thousands of people. We will also find a lot of influence from the United States in this portion of the book. It starts with Guatemala. A company that wished to pursue business in Guatemala, called United Fruits, wasn’t getting what they wanted. So it campaigned against the current leader of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz, calling him a communist (during a time when the USSR still existed.) The CIA got involved, and with violence, Arbenz was replace with a dictator. After this occurred thousands of people were killed by a militant government.
  • What it was like when Perkins visited: men with guns, would be the best way to describe it. The main point I took away from Perkins’ visit to Guatemala was that there was a certain warfare between the native people of Guatemala (the Mayans) and the current people with power an influence (people trying to make money). Because in order to make money they had to obtain resources that the Mayans held claim to.
  • Bolivia, more people exploited. Outside corporations were getting money from native people for utilities. This is another direct experience that the author had; John Perkins, was courted as the main candidate to be president of such a utility company. When he went to Bolivia he witnessed poor people standing in a long line in rain just to pay the company. He also witnessed an amazing project that had been done there, that provided power from the river without damming and flooding, but was told for the sake of money a project like that wouldn’t occur again. He didn’t take the job.
  • Venezuela, Hugo Chavez: down and back again. President Chavez did what a lot of men in power wouldn’t do, instead of allowing the country’s resources to be taken with no regard to the people, he put profits back in community to help teach and benefit the people. He also helped other countries within South America when they were in need. This didn’t bode well for the oil industry. Because of this the jackals were called in: jackals are essentially the muscle behind corporations, or the thugs. Chavez was driven out of power, but only temporarily. He came back into power and back into control of the oil, and with his win gave hope to people that things could change.
  • Ecuador: death and betrayal. The section on Ecuador starts with the assassination of a president, Jaime Roldos. A president who also tried to bring his country’s resources back to its people. His death, an accused assassination, set his country back. Chavez was spreading hope though, so when Lucio Gutierrez seemed to talk the “Chavez talk” he was elected by the people of Ecuador. Unfortunately, his talk was just that, talk. After he was elected he didn’t represent the best interest of his people.
  • Another Chavez? We’ve talked about Bolivia before, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.  Bolivia was having issues that a lot of countries were having. They weren’t in control of their resources, companies were, and only the companies were seeming to profit from it: a theme throughout this section. They also had a leader rise up against this practice. This leader being Evo Morales. Of course he was countered, because what he was preaching was dangerous to profits. Evo Morales had a connection to coca crops, and by association cocaine. It was used to attack him, his character, and Bolivia. But those attacks were not successful. With that corporations lost their grip in Bolivia.
  • In review. What is important about this section? To me, it shows the lengths that corporations and big business are willing to go to gain control of what we have learned to refer to as the “commanding heights”. It also showcases situation where people have fought back and gained leaders that respected their right to benefit from their resources.

The Middle East

  • Lebanon, confrontation that can’t be stopped. Lebanon was one of the places the Palestinians fled when their land was essentially given away as reparation. This created tensions in Lebanon between the pre-existing Christian people and the immigrated Muslims.
  • The difficult parts to sort through. This section is interesting to navigate, because it seems like Perkins has less direct experience in the region. It is also fairly short compared to the others. The parts that he does bring from personal experience involve interactions with high ranking business men. Before he was sent to the Middle East he was given a pep talk that is rather striking about the value of Egypt, not only to Africa, but also to the Middle East.
  • Egypt, the middle ground. When Perkins was in Egypt he found it particularly difficult to get the population info he needed. So he moved up the chain of command until he could find it. This led him to someone who had studied in the United States, Dr. Asim.  Perkins needed the data to secure money for Egypt. Asim was extremely hostile with him, giving him what he wanted, but brutally tearing him down in the process. Perkins discussed how he felt the source of Asim’s anger was his inability to stop companies from plotting down their own empires onto Egyptian soil.
  • Building the Empire. Perkins also discussed a trip he took to Iran. Within this section it is the people he encounters that are the most interesting. Within this particular chapter it was an Iranian engineer, who essentially directly told him what Dr. Asim’s anger had alluded to: that the land and the countries of the Middle East were going to be warped by the intentions of other countries. In this context the engineer seemed to be discussing the countryside turning into a city landscape with hotels and other signs of the outside moving in.
  • In review. What was the point of this section? This section was about conflict and shaping. The conflict of the religions within the area was brought up in multiple portions of the section, but especially in reference to Lebanon. To me this discussion of religious conflict existed within this book to show us what was keeping the people from uniting against corporations, and changes, in their countries. The changes were noticed, and seemed to make the people feel helpless, but no actions against it are noted.


  • Jackals in Africa. Here we encounter a friend of the author who became a jackal, Jack Corbin. Jack had a rough start in Lebanon, where Jack’s father lived and worked as a corporate executive. It was in Lebanon where Jack was desensitized to violence. Down the line he found himself in Africa over his head. This occurred when France-Albert Rene did something in Seychelles, an island off the coast of South Africa, that looked a lot like what we have already learned about in the section on Latin America. He attempted to make the areas resources work for the people. Which, as we previously read about, doesn’t end well. Sure enough Jack Corbin was called in to help take him out. The plan however fell to shambles, and turned into a mess of fighting that ended when some of the would-be assassins got on a plane that landed at the airport (in which the conflict was occurring) and flew off. They might not have killed the president, but they seemed to have scared him into being more open to cooperation.
  • More on African assassinations. The book paints assassinations in Africa as something that happens commonly. Another assassination that was referenced was the hanging death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his associates, all who were fighting to protect the environment in Nigeria.
  • Does charity work help? The description of the “non-govermental organizations” reminded me of putting a bandaid on a festering wound, and feeling helpful afterward. What I got from the chapter on it is; they are there because they feel they should help in some way, but the things that are being done are just elongating the problem by not providing the right aid.
  • Tantalum and other money making resources. Things in the Congo have gotten heated in the battle over resources. Not resources that are useful in any sense to the people, but resources that are useful in making money; things like Tantalum, a resource used in production of all our favorite electronic devices, and diamonds. What is comes down to it they are fighting in Africa because of demands that we have here in the United States.
  • In Review. What did this section give us? Most of the themes that we encountered in the book were reiterated within this section. The use of jackals was highlighted within the section, so we learned more about the practices they used, and the situations they used them in. We also encountered how our consumption directly causes violence in regions.

Changing the World

  • The most important section in the book? This section talks about what we can do to stop the practices of the Economic Hit Men and the Jackals, or the need for those practices all together. There were four main questions that Perkins put forth that I am going to simplify in my own way. They were; do we believe in our ability to have an effect? Do we really want things to be different? Is the change we want clouded by personal belief, or is it something everyone can stand behind? And, what is it that I can personally do to bring about change?
  • Has change been forced before? The answers to the questions, in my opinion, have to inspire great emotions in people to get them to want to work for change, and by extension force change. The author showcases some groups in the last section full of people who seem truly inspired. One of the first he brought up is the Rainforest Action Network (RAN.) RAN was successful in convincing branches of Mitsubishi that are found in America to change their policies on the environment. This represents a big company listening to the voices of people. RAN forces hands a lot by bringing attention to the problem at the source. They target businesses that are a problem and then they loudly inform the people (consumers) of what is going on. That gets attention. There are other ways to get the attention of corporations as well. A group called Amnesty International buys stock so that they can have a say in what goes on. Another group (inspired by Perkins) called The Pachamama Alliance works to help native people get back or maintain their land, and their resources, by providing teaching and means of communication.
  • The List, among other things. One of the things I enjoyed about this section is that Perkins considers how daunting this all must seem. He lets us know that he is aware it is scary, but that we have to do something anyway. He has given enough speeches to know that fear is a response. When talking with a crowd about what they can do he encountered a teacher who wanted to know what she could do. He told her to teach and inspire her classes. He also touched on things that we can all do in our lives in his last chapter. A lot of them involve our behavior whilst shopping containing things like; only purchase what you need, don’t shop just for the sake of shopping, use the things you have for as long as possible, and shop at thrift stores, or farmers markets, or even the local mom-and-pop. Some of the things on the list involve behaviors; riding a bike instead of taking your car to places when you can, donate to organizations that are doing things, write to the companies whose practices you don’t like or to the companies whose practices you want to see continue, talk about the problems and issues wherever you can, and vote with the ideals in mind.
  • In review. What did the final section tell us? It told us that we can be agents of change. That if we didn’t like what we read we should do something about, and then it gave us options of things we can do.

What the Author wants you to know.

If you were only to read one section of the book the Author would want you to read, “Changing the World”. All of the sections that come before it focus on the corruption of big businesses, and big governments. Their purpose seems to be to inspire the reader to do something. The last section focuses on what we the people can do to battle big businesses and the negative effects they have on other countries. This book seemed to be his call for action, and the fifth portion describes the action he wants to see.

The back of the book contained links to the organizations that were mentioned in the book for their efforts to fight big business and the negative effects caused by it. Here they are if you are interested.,,,


Why is it relevant in terms of our class?

Income inequality and standards of living are the two main topics we discuss in this class that are found within this book. Standard of living was one of the main focuses of the book. We’ve talked a lot about third world, or lesser developed nations, but it is hard to put that into context considering the lives that we lead. In the section about Asia the book discussed Indonesia and the living conditions of factory workers there. In the book there is an account of two documentary makers who went to Indonesia and lived on the wages that factory workers make, which meant they were living on a dollar and twenty-five cents a day. They lived in a cement box with no common comforts like furniture, and ate two meals a day. If they wanted to purchase something else they had to take it out of their food allowance. This made an alternative standard of living real. It described what it would be like to go to work after sleeping on a hard floor for barely enough money to eat rice. Income inequality was also mentioned, it was brought up particularly in the case of Lebanon. The Palestinians there were the group that made significantly less on average. During his trip to Lebanon, John Perkins saw slums that the Palestinians resided in. He saw the differences between the groups, like there was some sort of stigma keeping the Palestinians in a lower class within Lebanon.

What I learned.

Before reading this book I didn’t know what Economic Hit Men (EHM) and jackals were. When I was reading I felt quite ignorant. I didn’t think about the native people who were losing their resources to companies that took their profits to other portions of the world. I learned just how important unity is in terms of getting what you want. Countries like Bolivia showed the power of unity in their fight against resource leeches. The section on the Middle East showed what happened if the opposite situation was in affect, if there was no unity. I didn’t just learn about the definition of terms, or about theory, I learned about the “people factor”.

What was missing?

The fifth section of the book “Changing the World” wasn’t powerful enough for me. The entire book was pushing up to that moment, the moment where we learned how we could help. Yet somehow when I put the book down I felt less inspired and empowered than I did when I was reading through the first four sections. Maybe it was because it made me feel a little helpless. The wins that were brought up in the last section seemed trivial compared to all of the damages that were listed in the first four. I also felt that some of the sections, mainly the Middle East and Africa, were lacking the same substance that powerfully drove the chapters on Asia and Latin America. It felt like if the author lacked direct experience he hesitated to write about it in depth, which I can appreciate, but it still affected the buildup. He definitely started out with his strongest arguments and points, which also made the end feel weaker.

How has it changed me?

I will definitely think twice before I go out and buy a Nike running jacket, or a new pair of “Free Runs”. Reading a book like this changes how you feel when you walk into a store, or when you watch the news. You start to think about the source of things more; the “wheres” and the “whys”. Where did my computer come from? Why does Russia want control of Crimea? Last week when I did the grocery shopping I calculated how much it cost for the three meals and snacks that I ate in a day. Then I thought about all the other things I use in a day; my toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, toilet paper, and food for my dogs. Thinking about attempting to live on $1.25, without my bed, or car, just thinking about it was humbling.

The Bottom-line. 

Would I recommend it to my friends? Yes. I have already. And I plan to read John Perkins’ other book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. His personal experience gave real emotion to the topics he wrote on. I also like his writing style.