- Anti-capitalist activist
- Environmental activist
- Bestselling author
Naomi Klein was born on May 8, 1970 in Montreal, Canada. Her paternal grandparents were longtime Communist Party members whom Klein has described as believing “fervently in the dream of egalitarianism that the Soviet Union represented.” Klein's father, a pediatrician by training, wholeheartedly embraced the Communist ideology of his parents. In the '60s he became an anti-Vietnam War protester and joined Physicians for Social Responsibility. Klein's mother, meanwhile, was a left-wing activist who once created a series of films about the famed community organizer Saul Alinsky. According to Larissa MacFarquhar of The New Yorker, Klein's parents “would play tapes of a Pacifica Radio show that related American history through folk music—the story of McCarthyism through the Weavers, the civil-rights movement through the Freedom Singers.”
In the late 1980s Klein enrolled at the University of Toronto, where she studied literature and philosophy and served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Varsity. The New Yorker reports that as an undergraduate, Klein was immersed in campus “identity politics” and “spent all her time protesting the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the curriculum and the media.” After her junior year, Klein dropped out of college to take an internship at the Toronto Globe and Mail, and later an editorship at This Magazine. She returned to school in 1996 but soon dropped out again, this time to write a book about what she viewed as the excessive power and inadequate social conscience of corporations.
In 1998 Klein married the TV journalist and documentary fimmaker Avi Lewis, who was raised in a family loyal to the Canadian Socialist Party.
Klein finished writing her book in 2000 and published it under the title No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs, which has been described as the “Das Kapital of the anti-corporate movement.” In her book, Klein laments that corporations advance greed to the economic detriment of the workforce and the consumer. According to The Guardian, No Logo “became the handbook of the anti-globalisation protests” at the turn of the 21st century.
In 2007 Klein published The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, which casts the late Nobel laureate Milton Friedman as the “grand guru of the movement for unfettered capitalism,” whose devotees, she charges, favor “the elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations, and skeletal social spending.” Moreover, Klein argues that conservative politicians view natural and political disasters alike as “exciting market opportunities” to conduct “orchestrated raids on the public sphere”—with the aim of imposing predatory free-market policies upon unwilling citizens who first have been disoriented, or “shocked,” by something hugely traumatic.
In 2011 Klein supported the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, lauding its efforts “to change the world” and urging its activists to fulfill the promises of the anti-globalization protests in which she herself had participated a decade earlier. Klein called OWS a “beautiful movement” and told its members, “I love you.”
In 2014 Klein published This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, a book claiming that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with industrialization have caused immense environmental harm, as evidenced by a growing incidence of “extreme weather events” like hurricanes, typhoons, droughts, and heat waves. (Klein's premise of an increase in the frequency of such natural disasters is inaccurate.)
To save the environment from catastrophe, Klein, as Reason.com reports, calls for a ban on such technologies as fracking, nuclear power, genetically modified crops, geoengineering, and carbon sequestration; she opposes the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, which would transport Canadian petroleum to U.S. refineries; she exhorts pension funds and endowments to divest their assets from fossil fuel companies; and she calls for the United States and other industrialized nations to transfer trillions of dollars to poorer countries, as penance for having released a disproportionate share of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Klein's proposed “Marshall Plan for the Earth” would replace all coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power with wind, solar, and hydropower by the year 2030.
In the summer of 2015, Pope Francis, whom Klein has praised for being “right on the economics” of global warming, invited Klein to the Vatican to co-chair a conference on climate change, alongside Cardinal Peter Turkson. Recognizing the degree to which a left-wing religious figure could potentially help move his followers' thinking in a leftward direction, Klein, citing “Christ's proto-socialist teachings,” noted in July 2015 that “at the end of his life, Vladimir Lenin supposedly said that what the Russian Revolution had really needed was not more Bolsheviks but ten St. Francises of Assisi.”
In her speech at the Vatican, Klein praised what she described as “the core message of interconnection at the heart of the [pope's] encyclical,” and lauded the Holy See's “particularly courageous decision” to take on stand on climate change despite “the attacks that are coming from the Republican Party” and “the fossil fuel interests in the United States.” “In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet,” she said, “climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality.” Emphasizing that “we can save ourselves” by taking concrete actions like cutting carbon emissions, she urged her critics to “stop making the difficult the enemy of the possible,” and to join “the climate justice movement” in the noble cause of “making the possible real.”
A longtime hater of Israel and its people, Klein proudly recounts that at age 12 she wrote her own Bat Mitzvah speech “about Jews being racist.” Eight years later at the University of Toronto (1990), Klein wrote an editorial in the student newspaper stating that Israel was “a country with racism and misogyny at the core of its being”; that Israeli men were raised with a “siege mentality” that caused them “to hate Arabs” and to “reach maturity by brutalizing and degrading Palestinians”; and that “Jews made the shift from victims to victimizers with terrifying ease.” “I am a Jew against Israel,” Klein declared, “just as Israel repeatedly proves itself to be against me.”
Endorsing “punitive measures” against Israel as retribution for its “collective punishment on Gaza,” Klein avidly supports the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) movement as a means of “bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.” Maintaining that Israel should “become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa,” she served as a board of advisors member with the Free Gaza Movement in 2010.
Klein today is a contributing editor for Harper’s magazine, a reporter for Rolling Stone, a regular columnist for The Nation and The Guardian, a board-of-directors member of 350.org, and a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. She was formerly a Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics, a contributing editor with the socialist journal In These Times, and an endorser of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy.