restricted access Atlas Shrugged’s Shock Doctrine

Naomi Klein opens The Shock Doctrine by comparing the psychological hypothesis that an array of shocks “could unmake and erase faulty minds” with Milton Friedman’s economic hypothesis that a course of painful policy shocks could return society to “pure capitalism.” Klein’s book raises the following question: why did shock become the dominant metaphor for economic and psychological modernization? This article suggests that Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged provides one answer, revealing how shock’s emergence as a form of neoliberal subject-making is rooted in the white flight anxieties about racializing and decaying urban cores that emerged in the postwar period.