An interesting critique of Naomi Klein’s latest book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate was recently published in New York Magazine. The review begins with a discussion of an idea that the author terms the “purity fallacy”. This is the fallacy of believing that the failure to adequately address a problem, e.g. climate change, is caused by the promotion of a compromised agenda rather than an ideologically pure agenda. The review ends with this provocative assertion: “Waiting to limit the damage of greenhouse-gas emissions until the people can overthrow the yoke of unfettered capitalism may represent the most dangerous advice the left has come up with in a very long time”.
An interesting part of the critique is that Klein is argued to do what she previously critiqued others for in the book The Shock Doctrine: “after page upon page of Klein waxing moralistic over the practice of using an emergency to impose a preexisting agenda — “the treatment of disasters as exciting market opportunities,” she put it then [in The Shock Doctrine] — it comes as, well, a shock to see Klein urging her side to do exactly the same thing. This Changes Everything makes the case that the problem of climate change reduces to the same problem that aroused her before, and the solution entails the exact same things she has always favored.”
I note this here for a couple reasons. I believe it is important to consider how ideology shapes responses to climate change (along with other problems). Additionally, I’m struck by the ways that Klein’s analysis in the book is shaped by the faulty belief that neoliberalism should primarily be understood as an economic model (i.e. free market deregulated economies). Rather, it is an political ideology which can be challenged without abandoning capitalism. Consequently abandoning neoliberalism doesn’t require abandoning capitalism. By failing to see this, she appears to only see one solution to climate change – global social revolution to replace capitalism with some alternative – rather than others which are likely to be easier to achieve. These beliefs, in turn, may make it harder to address climate change.
All of this, including the large and growing influence of Klein’s latest book, underscores the need for renewed consideration of ideology and how this is shaping actual and potential climate change responses on both sides of the debate – those opposing taking action on climate change, and climate change movements. This is something I might examine further post-PhD.