UK: Outstandingly researched Shock Doctrine wins Naomi Klien the inaugural Warwick award Print E-mail

Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine wins first Warwick Prize for Writing
Video: HERE

Naomi Klein was announced last night (Tuesday 24 February, 2009) as the winner of the first £50, 000 Warwick Prize for Writing.

The unique new prize, run and self-funded by the University of Warwick, stands out as an international cross-disciplinary biennial award open to any genre or form of writing.

Canadian journalist Klein’s winning book The Shock Doctrine (Penguin) was chosen from a diverse shortlist of six international titles. This year’s prize theme of ‘Complexity’ was interpreted differently by each writer, all experts in their genres, and ranged from music criticism and scientific theory to Spanish fiction.

Chair judge China Miéville, award-winning author of fantasy fiction, announced the winner at a ceremony at the University of Warwick. Miéville said:

''Every book on the shortlist was exceptional, but of course it had, ultimately, to come down to one. Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine is a brilliant, provocative, outstandingly written investigation into some of the great outrages of our time. It has started many debates, and will start many more, and we're delighted to award it the first Warwick Prize for Writing.”

Klein’s The Shock Doctrine is based on breakthrough historical research and four years of on-the-ground reporting. Using detailed case studies from around the world, Klein charts the rise of disaster capitalism where moments of collective crisis – 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina for example – are exploited by global corporations to usher in radical social and economic change.

David Morley, Director of the Warwick Prize for Writing, comments: “Prizes are important. They offer a beckoning point to a writer. They set the tone of a writer’s progress in the world. The best books defy categorisation. I am therefore delighted that Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine has won the inaugural Warwick Prize for Writing. It is important to recognise her achievement with a prize of international calibre.”

The University of Warwick's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nigel Thrift, said: "I am delighted, that in its very first year, the Warwick Prize for Writing has attracted such an international spread of nominated and short listed publications. This reflects the University of Warwick's own global outlook and the international diversity of its staff and students. I offer my congratulations to Naomi Klein and hope that she will be able to spend a short time with us as one of the many leading international researchers and writers who elect to spend a period at Warwick as a visiting fellow."

Joining Miéville on this year’s judging panel was journalist Maya Jaggi; novelist, translator and academic Maureen Freely; Britain’s first book blogger Stephen Mitchelmore and University of Warwick mathematician Professor Ian Stewart.

The theme of ‘Colour’ was also announced last night for the 2011 Warwick Prize for Writing.


For further information on The Warwick Prize for Writing please contact:
Elise Oliver or Ruth Cairns at Colman Getty
Tel: 020 7631 2666 Fax: 020 7631 2699
Email: or

For further information on the University of Warwick please contact:
Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager at the University of Warwick
Tel: 02476 523708 or 07767 655860

Notes to Editors
The University of Warwick is one of the UK’s leading research universities. Consistently ranked in the top 10 of all the University league tables produced by UK national newspapers and ranked 7th among the UK's 100 universities for quality of research (Funding Councils' Research Assessment Exercise, 2008)
The £50,000 Warwick Prize is entirely self-funded by the University of Warwick. The University is able to make such an investment as it generates 63% of its own income
In addition to the £50,000 monetary prize, the winning author will be awarded the opportunity to take up a short placement at the University of Warwick
The Warwick Prize for Writing is an innovative new literature prize that involves global competition, and crosses all disciplines. The Prize will be given biennially for an excellent and substantial piece of writing in the English language, in any genre or form, on a theme which will change with every award

The Warwick Prize for Writing is an innovative new literature prize that involves global competition, and crosses all disciplines. The Prize will be given biennially for an excellent and substantial piece of writing in the English language, in any genre or form, on a theme which will change with every award. The winner of the inaugural Prize was announced on 24 February 2009 as Naomi Klein for The Shock Doctrine.

The winner of this award will receive £50,000 and the opportunity to take up a short placement at The University of Warwick.

The theme for the 2009 award was Complexity. The theme for the 2011 award was announced on 24 February 2009 and will be Colour.

Professor David Morley, Director of the Warwick Prize for Writing, and a former environmental scientist, writes:
How does writing evolve? Where is its moving edge? Is all writing - at its best - a type of creative writing?

These are questions I ask myself all the time as a poet and as professor of creative writing at Warwick. When I was a young research scientist I found myself facing the same issues because I often reached a zone where the current knowledge simply tapered to nothing. When scientists reach this point, this moving edge of knowledge, they surf forwards by a combination of previous knowledge, guesswork, and intuition. They become poets; they write - and they imagine - themselves into presence. They create possibility.

I always regarded science at this level as a form of creative writing. They physicist Niels Bohr observed, 'When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creative images'. The best writing creates possibility. My point is that, as with a poem or a paradigm, knowledge formation has a moving edge, a place where 'not knowing' is almost as important as knowing. If we accept that writing makes you think, and that the formation of knowledge depends partly on the complex and often playful process of writing, then what role does the process of writing play on that very edge of 'not knowing' and knowing: a place of creativity, energy and adventure."
 London ~~ Wednesday February 25, 2009

Outstanding 'complexity' wins Naomi Klein £50,000 inaugural Warwick prize

Alison Flood and Lindesay Irvine

Naomi Klein (Photograph: Murdo Macleod)

The complexity of Naomi Klein's portrayal of the rise of disaster capitalism, The Shock Doctrine, has won its author the inaugural £50,000 Warwick prize for writing.

The biennial prize, run by Warwick University, is promising to be one of the most unusual prizes on the books calendar, not least because it will tackle a different theme every two years, with "complexity" chosen as its initial focus. Chair of judges and author of "weird fiction" China Miéville praised The Shock Doctrine as a "brilliant, provocative, outstandingly written investigation into some of the great outrages of our time" which has "started many debates, and will start many more". The book charts Klein's four-year investigation into moments of collective crisis, such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, dubbing the ways in which they are exploited by global corporations "disaster capitalism".

"At a time when the news out of the publishing industry is usually so bleak it's thrilling to be part of a bold new prize supporting writing, especially alongside such an exciting array of other books," Klein said on learning of her win. She beat an extremely diverse shortlist which ranged from scientific theory to Spanish fiction to take the award, seeing off strong competition from Mad, Bad and Sad, Lisa Appignanesi's intricate study of the relationship between women and mental illness, and Alex Ross's Guardian first book award-winning history of 20th-century music, The Rest is Noise. Francisco Goldman's investigation into the murder of Guatemalan bishop Juan Gerardi, The Art of Political Murder, Stuart A Kauffman's Reinventing the Sacred and the solitary novel on the shortlist, Enrique Vila-Matas's study of an obsessive writer, Montano's Malady, completed the line-up.

The prize has self-consciously set out to break fresh ground as a prize, seeking not only to explore different themes, but also to explore "how writing evolves" and pick out its "moving edge". Miéville commented: "Of course, that could mean anything and nothing, but because it's a prize that's deliberately interdisciplinary and 'inter-formal', you do end up picking up a sort of gestalt of the set of concerns that are flying around in the zeitgeist, and the different but overlapping ways it gets expressed.

"A lot of people were very sceptical, asking how you can possibly compare, say, poetry and science writing, like apples and oranges. But actually it was very interesting to see how so many writers on the shortlist were thinking about political corruption and corporate greed. It would be ludicrous to say 'I now know where the moving edge of literature is', but I think we have been left with a sense of how people are striving to push writing forward. At the risk of sounding very woolly, it was very liberating just to throw all these books in the air and consider them first of all as writing."

On this year's shortlist, Miéville added that Klein's book scored outstandingly – in a strong field – for the chord it struck with this year's theme. "We kept coming back to the Klein book not just for its prescience and passion, but because of the 'systematicity' with which it builds a very sophisticated argument into a book that is both accessible and – odd though it sounds of such an angry work – beautiful."

"[The theme] was the big difficulty with this prize, but also what makes it interesting," said Miéville's fellow judge, Warwick mathematician professor Ian Stewart, whose task it was to evaluate the quality of the science in the titles submitted. "There was an enormous diversity of work submitted - at the longlist stage we were looking at fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Trying to select in some sense the best writing from that ... well, everyone understands there's no such thing, but you can make the case that some are better than others."

Stewart said that each judge - journalist Maya Jaggi, novelist Maureen Freely and blogger Stephen Mitchelmore alongside Miéville and him - came to the table "with their own feelings about what aspects of complexity were important". Two books - both non-fiction - emerged as potential winners, and in the end "a very strong consensus" was reached in favour of Klein's entry.

"Towards the end we were looking for what constituted good writing. It's got to be well-informed, but it's also got to tell a compelling story so the reader doesn't struggle to keep up, without being dumbed down," Stewart said. "Complexity is a pretty vague statement, but we wanted a theme partly because it gives you something to discuss."

As well as her £50,000 prize, Klein also wins the opportunity to take up a short placement at the university, which vice-chancellor Nigel Thrift urged her to take up.

The theme for the 2011 prize was also announced last night, with £50,000 available to the best book on the theme of colour.