A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disasters

Solnit, Rebecca

On the holiness of poverty: "the unbribed soul" — William James via paradise-built-in-hellp. 61

the-jungle via paradise-built-in-hellp. 61

"And builds a Heaven in Hell's despair"

The Clod and the Pebble

Two faces of the same coin

Solnit describes Klein's Shock Doctrine as "disempowering" since it focuses on stereotypical top-down power grabs

Those beliefs have yet to die. Naomi Klein's 2007 book The Shock Doctrine is a trenchant investigation of how economic policies benefiting elites are thrust upon people in times of crisis. But it describes those people in all the old, unexamined terms and sees the aftermath of disaster as an opportunity for conquest from above rather than a contest of power whose outcome is sometimes populist or even revolutionary. She speaks of disasters as creating "these malleable moments, when we are psychologically unmoored and physically uprooted" and describes one recent disaster as being akin to torture in producing "profound disorientation, extreme fear and anxiety, and collective regression."" Its a surprisingly disempowering portrait from the Left and one that echoes the fears of the prewar British authorities, the apparent product of assumptions rather than research.

paradise-built-in-hellp. 107 in reference to shock-doctrine

But also later goes on to disclaim/acknowledge that the scales of power can tip either way—to revolution or back to the elites—in a disaster.

Leftists of a certain era liked to believe that the intensification of suffering produced revolution and was therefore to be desired or even encouraged; no such reliable formula ties social change to disaster or other suffering; calamities are at best openings through which a people may take power—or may lose the contest and be further subjugated.


Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine explores one side of the impact of disaster: the scramble for power on the side of the powerful, of authorities, institutions, and capitalism. [...] The destabilization of disaster is most terrifying to those who benefit most from that stability.

paradise-built-in-hellp. 160

Solnit also examines the 2001 Argentina economic collapse, the subject of Klein and Lewis' 2004 documentary The Take


paradise-built-in-hell Solnit, Rebecca. 2009. A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disasters. Viking. ↩︎ 1 2 3 4

the-jungle Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. ↩︎ 1

shock-doctrine Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. ↩︎ 1