Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

Engaging, not hectoring, China

My following article appears in the Amnesty International Australia’s Uncensor campaign about human rights in China:

The future of human rights in China after the Games will require constant negotiation and patience, writes Antony Loewenstein

The Olympics are nearly upon us (and dog is allegedly banned from sale during the event.)

Beijing residents are reporting a draconian crackdown on anything deemed “subversive.” “The dichotomy between what Olympics visitors will see and what residents experience”, writes Jen Lin-Liu, “may be most visible in the stadiums once the Games begin.”

There is no doubt that the departing New York Times correspondent Howard W. French is correct when he writes: “…Political change, however gradual and inconsistent, has made China a significantly more open place for average people than it was a generation ago.”

But the behaviour of authorities, both Chinese and the IOC, in the lead-up to the Games – insecure and petty – reveals a mindset that all-too-easily resents freedom of expression. Though it was amusing to read about Yahoo, one of the leading Western multinationals who has assisted the regime’s filtering system, caught out by promoting a picture gallery of the, “Tiananmen Square Massacre Remembered”, some commentators are comparing the Beijing Games to the 1980 Moscow event. Technology may have changed, but the nature of oppression is eerily similar. The Guardian explains:

“The similarities between these two coming-out parties are eye-popping: dissidents jailed; ‘social undesirables’ – mainly poor migrant workers – kicked out of town; three rings of police checkpoints surrounding the city; old buildings bulldozed; security so overwhelming as to squeeze all the fun out of the party.”

The China Model, furious economic development with general political impotence, is continuing (especially in the hi-tech sector). But it has its limits, not least the benefits brought by satellite television and the internet.

He Weifang, a professor of law at Peking University, says that China is slowly democratising, but at a vastly different rate to what the West thinks it deserves.

“Today, even the farmers in remote areas have satellite TVs,” Mr. He said. “So whenever they see an election, such as the one held in Pakistan recently, they may wonder why, even though we have approximately the same economic conditions, they can elect their top leaders, and we can’t even vote for the leader of a small county. I think a consciousness of political rights has increased more than anything.”

As a visitor to China in 2000 and again in 2007, it is patently clear that the country has become far more confident in its identity. Though a craving for global acceptance is key to understanding the recent nationalist surge, the Olympics are the ultimate opportunity for the regime to showcase its modernisation. It won’t totally succeed, and nor should it, because there is simply too much known about Beijing’s authoritarianism (and its denial of past revolutionary violence).

But human rights activists should not only damn the rising power. Nuance is the key, as is engagement. It’s hard to disagree with the conclusion of George Walden, a British diplomat in China during the Cultural Revolution, who says that the Games must be allowed to succeed:

“We need perspective on this. I was there during the Cultural Revolution, and I watched people being carted away in the streets to be shot in the back of the neck. About 3 million people died. I’ve been back often since, and each time there is a sort of incremental freedom, though sometimes it moves backward.”

I argue in my forthcoming book, The Blogging Revolution, that China’s internet may be the key to advancing the interests of its citizens. A regime can’t hide all the “subversive” material all of the time, no matter how hard they try. What was impossible only a few years ago – such as local citizens complaining online about corrupt, local officials – should give us hope that Chinese netizens are not the mindless drones often imagined by the Western media.

Technology and capitalism certainly don’t automatically guarantee democracy (something far too many neo-cons fail to understand) Until Western, IT multinationals are convinced that colluding with repressive regimes is not in their best interests, it will be close to impossible to change this current vicious cycle.

China’s entry into the world club will be a tortuous process, but respect is a two-way street.

one comment ↪
  • Thanks for posting this article Antony. I caught George Negus on TV last night interviewing some Gen Y Chinese. It was interesting and complex. He didn't seem to track down any that weren't against the West, or at least the Western media. I felt like yelling out to these people who are my age, saying 'we're not all like that' (westerners). But then Negus seemed only to be interviewing one particular type of Gen Y Chinese when I'm sure there are many of different opinion, and many apathetic, as you discover in your book.
    It's a little worrying that China seems to feel sore about not being seen as a respectable superpower by the West. There certainly seems to be a rising nationalism (but then some of their comments on how news stations like CNN and Fox doctor news are valid).
    Overall it's a complex issue and it would be great if their internet was opened up just so younger Chinese generations weren't experiencing the world through a political pinhole.