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.

Privatisation is just the way to make us all happier

David Mitchell writes in the London Observer in a paean to the private sector, a bunch of caring individuals who just want the rest of us to enjoy better and more efficient services:

The private sector is amazing, isn’t it? It’s easily the best sector. Apart from the voluntary sector, of course, which is inspiring and humbling and should give us all pause. But obviously, it’s not really a proper sector. By which I mean it’s vital – perhaps even more vital than the others – in just the same way that the Paralympics is perhaps more important than the Olympics.

But out of the two other sectors – which I’m certainly not going to call “the main two sectors” because that’s, I think, a really unimaginative way of looking at the vital voluntary sector – the private one has got to be the best, right? It’s like the free west, while the public sector is the Soviet Union but without the nuclear threat: all drab suits, grey offices, unattractive women and queues. You get a sense of concrete and drizzle, flares and puddles, all very 70s, whereas the private sector is dynamic and 80s. It’s much more Dynasty, more Howards’ Way, more using-proper-nouns-as-adjectives. It’s fax machines and swimming pools, shoulder pads and telling people where to stick it, in both professional and sexual contexts.

Yes, people who work in the private sector must look at public sector workers in disbelief. How did you end up there, they must think. What personality cocktail of laziness, self-loathing and intractable mediocrity would have led you to try to make your fortune (your incredibly modest fortune, albeit with overgenerous pension provision made possible only by tying the hands of enterprise) in that gloomy bureaucratic Mariana trench, far from the nourishing rays of the profit motive? How did the sorting hat of fate come to put you in life’s Hufflepuff (but with a touch of Slytherin thrown in when it comes to local government contracts)?

Those are the sort of questions that Carl Lygo, the chief executive of BPP, Britain’s only run-for-profit university, must have to bite his tongue to stop himself asking when talking to other educators. And he has been talking to them: he’s been discussing the possibility of running the business side of at least 10 publicly funded universities, going into “partnership” with them. They’d still make all the academic decisions, while BPP would deal with the admin. But isn’t this an uneven partnership? It lacks a shared aim. One half wants to run a good university, the other wants to make money. If a marriage is a partnership, isn’t this like getting hitched to a hooker?

Or maybe it’s just paying for goods and services. As Lygo says: “Most universities are running at high costs and don’t properly utilise their buildings. The private sector is better at procurement, because they are keener at negotiating better prices.” That’s the key argument in favour of outsourcing and subcontracting and other expressions for an institution giving up roles it was constituted to fulfil: the public sector is so congenitally wasteful that a private company will always be able to undercut it – that the inherent public-sector inefficiency equates to more than the profit the subcontractor takes.

one comment ↪
  • walrus

    A few years ago I would have totally supported your issues with the privatisation of universities, Antony, but things have changed. I work at the most corporatised public university in Australia – at least in terms of the proportion of funding it spends in non-academic areas. It is also for the moment, and based on its legacy, one of the most prestigeous. Its administrative services have become inefficient, bureaucratic, and in many areas very incompetent. The bureaucracy pervades all and as well as tying up excessive amounts of university resources imposes increased workloads and irrational rules on academics. While academics are subject to metrics to measure and compare their teaching and research performance and academic areas taxed to the hilt to fund the centre, the profligate central administration of the university is accountable only to a rubber stamp council.

    I spend time in some of the private universities of the US and must say that they function much better. They believe in their academics, trust them, understand their importance to the mission, and support them. I would love to have HR and IT in my university done by an organisation that used fewer resources and delivered a reasonable and functional service.