This phrase was coined by Naomi Klein. Two recent examples of disaster capitalism: Hurricane Katrina provided an opportunity to close down housing projects in New Orleans; and the chaos in Iraq has made it possible to ram through an oil privatization law.
As Klein puts it: “The window of opportunity opens up, and it is deliberately exploited.” Her newest book is called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
For years, global corporations have been thriving on national economies that are in meltdown. And to complete the circle, these meltdowns are often created or exacerbated by the IMF and the World Bank.
Using Katrinagate as an example, Klein says: “I was in New Orleans when the city was still flooded. I was interviewing lobbyists who were already camped out at the state legislature building in Baton Rouge, talking about all the tax cuts they were going to get, and the new labor flexibility, and what a great opportunity this was…There was a great deal of excitement.”
The term “reconstruction” is just a euphemism for a war on the public sector. In present-day New Orleans: “The public housing projects are boarded up and stand empty. You have condo developers circling. Their largest public hospital, Charity Hospital, is empty. This was the hospital that was treating the uninsured. The New Orleans public education system is now the country's leading laboratory in the charter school model…All of that happened, not because there was a community consensus for it, but because the disaster was expertly exploited by politicians, think tanks, and lobbyists to push through radical policies in the chaos after the disaster. That's disaster capitalism.”
She continues: “New Orleans is a laboratory for the corporatization of disaster response. You had Carnival Cruise ships providing housing. You had the big contractors from Iraq such as Bechtel building privatized trailer parks guarded by private security. What we're seeing is that, first, disasters are used to push through the radical privatization of hospitals, schools, roads, and so on.”
And the parallels between Iraqmire and Katrinagate: “Many of us in New Orleans who had been to Iraq felt that the Green Zone had just been lifted out and moved to the Gulf Coast…The parallels were very striking. There were the same contractors — Blackwater-Halliburton-Bechtel. The point of this is that disaster zones are laboratories. They're testing grounds. In the chaos of this moment, you have these leaps forward for the privatization agenda. What was Blackwater doing there? They claim that they had just seen the disaster on television and wanted to help, right? But this was an extraordinary incursion into what we think of as a core state function. Why wasn't the National Guard there? Where were the local authorities?”
And referring to the “reconstruction” in Iraq, she says: “The dream of building a model state in someone else's land is a deeply dangerous and racist dream, and a violent dream.”
So it appears.
Here are some more links to Disaster Capitalism.