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Naomi Klein’s Fences and Windows

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Through personal and deep rooted ideals, Naomi Klein provides a chronological account on two and a half years of various protests and speeches all over the world that revolve around the issue of globalization. “Fences and Windows” is a tightly bound compilation of newspaper articles and speeches packed together to encompass basic themes of a dwindling democracy caused by the “…internationalization…” of a neo-liberalist ideology. (p.78)

Essentially, Klein’s various articles and speeches devote themselves primarily to the international debate of free trade, privatization, and capitalism, while often conceptualizing the fundamental sociological principle proposed by Mills-stating that often, private troubles cause public issues.

Klein provides an international perspective, capturing the essence of what she refers to as the “movement”- which is a collective epicenter in opposition to the various abstract-economic theories that effect society. An economically driven “infrastructure ” gives Klein the image or metaphor of fences and windows. The concept of the fence is used interchangeably, stating that tangible fences are “…needed to enforce the virtual ones…that put resources and wealth out of the hands of so many.” (p.11)

As well, windows are conceptualized to represent freedom of speech, gateways to “…the liberation of democracy…”(p.33), equitable substance distribution, and an access for change that the movement so powerfully fights for on a global scale.

The windows of dissent can be a representation of an intricate process of thousands of people tying their destinies together through a network of “hubs and spokes”(p.11) simply by sharing ideas and telling stories about how economic dominance affects their daily lives. Klein’s windows are not portraying violent protests against globalization, no, they simply can provide an image of a deeper and more responsive democracy on both mezzo and macro levels.

Among many, one particularly important rationale for recommendation of “Fences and Windows” for study in social policy education has to do with seeing the client as being directly affected by the current over-arching structure of power that instills and maintains a “…trickle-down effect of democracy.”(p.104) Focusing on the client perspective and the client’s role and position within a multi-ideated world enables much needed insight into how the personal is so often political.

One draw back to this compilation of articles from an extremely artistic and radically driven writer is that Klein’s language and diction in explaining the various debates in governmental and international terms can be difficult to grasp. However, for potential social workers that are required to understand their position in an ever closing in globalized world, Klein’s insights can work as an excellent introduction to this macro understanding of micro issues. The conceptualization that is eminent with study and reflection upon Klein’s work proposes that a political/ideological perspective is a vital part of social work and social action.

Klein provides so many detailed, and at times graphic examples constructed within a three-fold abstraction of what the debate on globalization entails. With an understanding of what is happening in other countries in the world like the atrocities in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, it is sure to spark an interest and awareness into the debate, and perhaps even be a vehicle for social action, locally or globally. The opportunity to learn about and step into the network of activism Klein speaks to, will no doubt further the 305A student’s foray into social policy and social change.

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