Share on email. By Joseph E. Stiglitz. Once you pry open the terminology a little bit, as Loewenstein implies, one finds that the leverage of “disaster capitalism” now stretches far beyond that which Klein identified. Given the desperation and distraction brought about by the disaster, the federal government, corporations, and investors sensed an opportunity: Puerto Rican society was at its most vulnerable, making it the perfect time to snap up bargains, privatize industry, and remake the island. In the background, however, a more unsettling picture also emerges, in which those exploitative machinations continue to take hold, progressively and aggressively, even without a disaster or shock. Puerto Rico is located between 2 tectonic plates both moving toward the island from opposite sides, squeezing the island. And yet one solution is to reinforce and extend similar neoliberal structures that have so adeptly harmed the island. Increasingly, Puerto Rico has become a place for companies and employees not tied to specific workplaces to relocate, particularly ones who do most of their business on the Web. In these comprehensive and unsettling works, he covers war (in Afghanistan), aid (in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake), and environmental exploitation (in Papua New Guinea). Disaster capitalism comes to Puerto Rico. And, of course, there’s Puerto Rico, just one of countless examples. Disaster creates a unique environment in which corporations and investors thrive. Reviewed in the United States on July 4, 2018. Nobel laureate in economics, is University Professor at Columbia University. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) "Disaster capitalism" in Puerto Rico: After Maria, power companies go private Puerto Rico is privatizing its power utility, and it's causing controversy That there are many cases of disaster capitalism is a point made by journalist Antony Loewenstein in his book, Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe (2015), and in the 2018 documentary Disaster Capitalism. This article was commissioned by Caitlin Zaloom. Disaster capitalism comes to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is at a crossroads. Disaster capitalism comes to Puerto Rico. FURTHER READING: Naomi Klein tells us how to resist 'the Trump show', As Klein puts it, Puerto Rico is experiencing the “Shock-After-Shock-After-Shock Doctrine,” including selling off public assets and turning over public schools to private corporations as charter schools. In Loewenstein’s reckoning, there are still the more “traditional” disasters and economic shock therapy “solutions,” and perhaps it is those more obvious shocks that generate the conditions that allow for a particularly nefarious and obvious expression of largely harmful neoliberal capitalism, as is beginning to unfold in Puerto Rico. And, the debt is squeezing the lifeblood out of the people. They became centers for self-recovery projects, as well as places where people could go to recharge cell phones or plug in medical equipment. Verified Purchase. That he settles on no single word is not a weakness, but rather an intriguing diagnosis: capitalism in its current expression and at its worst is all of those things and more. Similar to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the earthquakes and aftershocks in Puerto Rico are revealing the decidedly unnatural tragedies of disaster capitalism and colonialism. For example, the coup d’état in Chile in 1973, promoted and facilitated by the CIA, deposed of socialist president Salvador Allende and installed Augusto Pinochet, whose rule centered on neoliberal ideology and free-market principles. Portland, Oregon's award-winning weekly street newspaper, BOOK REVIEW | “The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists” by Naomi Klein, “The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists” by Naomi Klein, Naomi Klein tells us how to resist 'the Trump show', Answering the call in Puerto Rico: 'The need was immense, Breaking down Measure 103: Fact vs. fiction, Answering the call in Puerto Rico: 'The need was immense', Jon Langford: Making music in these ‘Trumpy’ times, A refugee family’s struggle to navigate the bureaucracy of survival, A podcast by a Street Roots vendor, about fellow vendors. Monbiot contends that through a “failure of the imagination,” we—the “silent majorities”—“have failed to understand what is possible, and above all failed to tell a new compelling story of transformation and restoration.” If that were to change, there would be nothing that this “small minority” could do and once people realize “how powerful they are and how useful they can be, and how politics and government can belong to all of us rather than only a remote elite, we will become unstoppable.” Monbiot backs up these stirring claims with examples that include “near misses” that gestured towards some fundamental change: the near nomination of Bernie Sanders, for example. Puerto Rico currently imports 85 percent of its food, even as its economy is mostly oriented to export agriculture. Or, Hurricane Katrina: the shock of the original disaster of the flooding and evacuations (disproportionately impacting poor African-American residents) was followed by the economic shock therapy that exploited the chance to make money from the valuable opportunities at cut-price and under a short-termist guise of “rebuilding,” which would disproportionately benefit those with financial stakes: public schools could be turned into charter schools, public housing projects into condominiums. The other possibility, as the activist Naomi Klein writes in her new book, The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists (2018), is to look for positive, real change in the island’s future after decades of oppression. But that will not be a straightforward process. The neoliberal “prosperous future”—the purported trickling down of capital to benefit all—has long been a fallacy. Similarly, U.S. citizens who relocate to Puerto Rico – but not the Puerto Ricans who already live there – can become exempt from paying income tax entirely. On the other hand, there is the push for a “Puerto Rico that is equitable, democratic, and sustainable for all” through local, inclusive grassroots initiatives centered on public education, renewable energy, and agro-ecology. The aftermath of the hurricane left the “perfect opening” for exploiting the disaster and post-storm chaos, according to Klein. My copy of Naomi Klein's book "Disaster Capitalism" has been highlighted to the max. On Monday, teachers across Puerto Rico held a one-day strike to protest the privatization plan. Klein points out that food sovereignty is not only crucial for reducing Puerto Rico’s dependence on the world economy, but also for insulating it against the worst effects of climate chaos. For now, it seems not. The fault, as Klein sees it, lies not with the island or its lack of resources but with the vicious cycle of dependence imposed by the federal government, which has kept the island in seemingly perpetual crisis. Here is an island, part of the United States since the U.S. war on the Spanish Empire in 1898, where the people have little democratic control of its institutions and resources. Years of constructed dependence followed by Hurricane Maria have created extreme crisis and inequality. Monbiot’s argument relies on massive hopes and expectations: a fundamental change of discourse, a willing regression of development, and a form of deglobalization and contraction of capital financial systems predicated on the end of excess, a restriction of consumption, the end of inequality and inequity, and living within our means. For Monbiot, certain features of contemporary capitalist societies—economic exploitation, acute inequality, climate degradation, political corruption, and so on—generate a deepening and seemingly perpetual crisis. This new system—the neoliberal doctrine, Klein would call it—changed the way of doing business, in which state involvement is diminished while private, corporate interests are promoted. In the meantime, are we able, as Monbiot asks, to act more justly in order to pursue the collective good through a “new politics”? The unending state of emergency and the systematic use of executive orders have facilitated corruption, disinformation, chaotic crisis management, and enabled disaster capitalism. By Martin Guzman. Nov 20,2018 - Last updated at Nov 20,2018. So naturally its government, prodded by the wealthy, wants to privatize its electrical grid and its public schools, among other things. That guiding idea, however, never materialized and instead led to an age of multidimensional crisis: environmental, political, social, and economic, depending on where and how keenly you look. The island was bankrupt and left with a $73 billion debt to the federal government. As Klein describes one of these developments, “Visiting Casa Pueblo was ... a bit like stepping through a portal into another world — a parallel Puerto Rico where everything worked and the mood brimmed with optimism.” Community-based solar developments were among the few places on the island that still had power after the hurricane. Puerto Rico is not the only place where disaster capitalism has taken root or where people dream of something else emerging from the ruins of exploitative neoliberal capitalism. The Intercept is co-hosting an event focused on how the forces of disaster capitalism are seeking to undermine the Puerto Rican people’s vision for a just and renewable future. The current conditions provide the perfect opening to establish profit-driven, privatized remodel: the island, as the governor has put it, is a “blank canvas” for innovators and investors. It has been more than a year since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, … Writer Naomi Klein discusses the latest attempts at privatizing the electric grid in Puerto Rico following the damage from Hurricane Maria. That there are many cases of disaster capitalism is a point made by journalist Antony Loewenstein in his book, Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe (2015), and in the 2018 documentary Disaster Capitalism. The electrical grid is one such opening: In January, the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, announced that it would be privatized. Subsequently, in March, while thousands were still without lighting or reliable water and having their insurance claims rejected, a hedge fund manager hosted the Puerto Crypto conference to promote the island as the center of the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries and as a tax and corporate haven. He also cites many other examples of exploitative economic practices—those that aim to make money for corporations or purposefully impoverish citizens—in Greece, the UK, the US, and Australia. Disaster capitalism is merely the latest rendition of a long legacy of colonial capitalism. A disaster often serves to foreground these ever-present traits. It has been a year since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving a trail of destruction: ruined infrastructure, destroyed homes, and thousands of fatalities. Or is the broader ideology of capitalism so indoctrinated and accepted in the West that we will just carry on, repressed by a system guided by inherent injustice and inequality, one defined by faceless entities, multifaceted crises, and purposefully exploitative practices? Nothing is safe from the imperial reach of a commodified system of capital. Through the incompetent crisis response, the cycle of dependence continued. Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” details the ways that corporations and governments take advantage of disasters to implement neoliberal economic structuring around the globe. Her new book, “The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists,” applies that premise to the island’s situation. And, of course, there’s Puerto Rico, just one of countless examples. “The Battle for Paradise” presents a choice the whole world will eventually face; will we reorient our industry and our economy to allow for local adaptation to the worsening climate? Then, when the hurricane hit, it became a disaster zone that received an inadequate government response. This process is underway and represents a prime opening of the market for profit-motivated private energy companies. March 21, 2018. To build it, our approach must be grounded in uncovering and combating the strategies that have been developed to deprive an entire nation of its human rights and its ability to defend itself. In fact, the disaster seems to have been seen as more of an opportunity to steer profits to Trump cronies and others and to reshape Puerto Rico, whose economy has been structured to make profits for U.S. companies since the early 20th century, to meet corporate needs in the 21st century. As such, “disaster” may no longer refer to specific shocks or changes in the economic system but rather to the system itself. “Disaster” can serve as a modifier concerning the very nature of capitalism and its development within a broad framework of neoliberalism. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last September, knocking out the electric grid, leaving thousands without shelter and, directly or indirectly, causing the deaths of thousands of people. It has been a year since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving a trail of destruction: ruined infrastructure, destroyed homes, and thousands ... a magazine of ideas, arts, and scholarship, congratulated the Federal Emergency Management Agency. All rights reserved. If everything is sold off to profiteering companies and it becomes a crypto tax haven and tourist resort, most Puerto Ricans will again be forced back into an exploitative colonial dynamic, this time according to a tweaked neoliberal model. Courtesy of Street Roots’ sister paper Real Change News in Seattle. Disaster capitalism rages in Puerto Rico. In June, as the 2018 hurricane season was beginning, and in September, as Florence approached the US mainland, Donald Trump congratulated the Federal Emergency Management Agency on its excellent response and perfect handling of Maria even though the large majority of fatalities were in its aftermath.2 Simultaneously, many Puerto Ricans were still without power and water, had had their insurance claims stalled or rejected, and were being offered venture loans—not aid—to get back on their feet. This iteration of capitalism that thrives on crisis will continue the exploitation and inequality that Puerto Rico has suffered for years. How is it, Monbiot asks, that the “neoliberal story” persists when its pitfalls and egregious exploitation are so apparent? After Hurricane Maria, FEMA had an explicit policy of encouraging hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans to leave for the mainland; a similar policy after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans created a permanent demographic shift in New Orleans’ population. The Puertopians dream of a radical withdrawal from society into their privatized enclaves.” On the other side, community groups “dream of a society with far deeper commitments and engagement — with each other, within communities and with the natural systems, whose health is a prerequisite for any kind of safe future.”. Puerto Rico is still struggling after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria. © 2020 Street Roots. Now is an opportune time to stop the exploitative colonial relationship that Puerto Rico has long suffered as a result of its constructed dependence on the US for food, energy, finance, and other resources. This is the story that Klein writes optimistically in Puerto Rico; it is the other possible future, one with democratic equity in decision-making, the right to self-determination. Puerto Rico-Whitefish scandal ‘disaster capitalism’ in action By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan / Syndicated Columnists Monday, November 6th, 2017 at 12:02am The fight for its future is underway. Puerto Ricans—represented more accurately by the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz than the governor Ricardo Rosselló—are tired of not being heard, of being unequal citizens, and of having no say in the decision-making process. The three authors also ultimately demand—somewhat hopefully, or perhaps hopelessly—a need for modern societies “to view humans as more than just consumers.” Monbiot goes further, pushing for a “regime change,” in which the system is replaced rather than reformed.5 As such, their objective seems not to be “benevolent capitalism” or “sustainable capitalism” but rather “not capitalism.”. 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