The New Yorker recently did a profile of Naomi Klein which was quite good. I didn’t realise that Klein comes from a long line of radicals. The one thing that writer MacFarquhar doesn’t quite highlight is that Klein’s politics are very much of the sixties variety. Instead MacFarquhar accepts Klein’s own self-positioning:

Klein was born in 1970, but the political stories in which she places herself all begin in the thirties. The thirties and forties were the last time in America, she feels, that social movements were strong enough to force radical economic change in a progressive direction. They were also the last time that a certain kind of grand, bold political hope existed in her family — the last time before events combined to extinguish all thoughts, among Kleins, of utopia.

Klein should probably be seen more as a decendant of the sixties social movement activists — in particular the New Left — especially in relation to her positions on organisation. Interestingly she has made some reassesments on issue:

In No Logo, Klein celebrated the anarchic formlessness of the anti-corporate protests — what she wryly termed “laissez-faire organizing”. Her generation of activists was “challenging systems of centralized power on principle, as critical of left-wing, one-size-fits-all state solutions as of right-wing market ones,” she wrote. “It is often said disparagingly that this movement lacks ideology, an overarching message, a master plan. This is absolutely true, and we should be extraordinarily thankful.” These days, the movement long gone, she is not so sanguine about it. “What I was responding to at the time was people on the left who I thought were opportunistically trying to impose their solutions,” she says. “I was hoping that more of an articulation would emerge in a grass-roots way, but it’s not happening — I think because the entire discussion was severed on September 11th. The mainstream NGOs became frightened of being associated with people who seemed quasi-terrorist, and then we started talking about war.” Lewis has never been as enamored as Klein of the movement’s lack of discipline, and she admits now that he may have been right. “Seeing how easy it was for everything to evaporate, without institutions taking that energy and nailing it down — we were too ephemeral,” she says. “It was that experience that made me feel like we need to be more tangible, whether it’s political parties or putting it in writing.”

Rjurik Davidson

Rjurik Davidson is a writer, editor and speaker. Rjurik’s novel, The Stars Askew was released in 2016. Rjurik is a former associate editor of Overland magazine. He can be found at and tweets as @rjurikdavidson.

More by Rjurik Davidson ›

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Related articles & Essays

Contribute to the conversation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *