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.

#LeftTurn given a thorough and critical review

The following review appears in the Crikey blog Lit-icism:

Guest post by Adam Brereton 

Antony Loewenstein and Jeff Sparrow, in the introduction to their new book Left Turn: Political Essays For The New Left, invite the reader to imagine current examples in popular culture that envision a future ‘in which the world to come is, in any respect whatsoever, an improvement on the present.’

‘Not so easy? What does that say about the cultural moment?’ they ask.

More prevalent, they note, are apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fictions – anarchy, dystopia and a glut of zombie fiction, inspired by current anxieties about ruptures in the world around us:

We imagine the future by extrapolating the present…the endless, low-level wars…the pockets of already-existing environmental collapse; the media’s delight in summary executions and enhanced interrogations; and all the rest of what we see on the evening news…Capitalism’s accomplishments no longer seem distinguishable from its failings…it’s in this very present that we discern, however dimly, the shape of the future that scares us.

What is less obvious are the new ideas that will displace what the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has called the ‘Fukuyamaist’ attitude that prevails across the political spectrum; that ‘free market’ capitalism and liberal democracy is the natural ‘final’ system, the flaws of which might be ameliorated through more equality and tolerance, the welfare state and the like.

Loewenstein and Sparrow rightly note that plenty of Australians are receptive to a ‘new Left’ project that breaks these strictures. Sixty-nine per cent of polled Australians supported the concerns of the brief Occupy Sydney and Melbourne protests. Campaigns for environmentalism, womens’ and queer rights, and other traditional Left causes, have become mainstream to an extent that many activists would not have thought possible.

But Left Turn is emphatically not a manifesto, Loewenstein told Crikey. It’s asking questions about the current order, but ‘what the answer should be, who the hell knows. That’s what’s to be discussed.’

In this spirit, the book lays out issues that might be of concern to a resurgent ‘new Left’. The compilation’s essays are too wide-ranging to deal with in any detail, but they encompass a range of both new and familiar Left issues. Racism, sexism and homophobia are addressed, alongside welcome discussions of the media’s cheerleading for the War on Terror, the Israeli Boycott, the Divestments and Sanctions movement, and the utopianism of Occupy Wall Street. Tracker editor Chris Graham’s contribution on Aboriginal violence is one of the stand-outs.

Whether many of the topics in Left Turn could be described as ‘new Left’, given that most are variations on old arguments from the 1970s, is another thing altogether. This is to say nothing against the importance of those movements, but we’re in the post-crisis 21st century. Where are our best Left-wing writers and thinkers on technology, international law, Wikileaks, high finance or bioethics – or even the mining boom, for that matter?

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, writing about the future of her party, is one notable exception. ‘The history of many parliamentary parties,’ Rhiannon writes, ‘is a stark reminder that progressive values and vision are often compromised or sidelined in the quest for votes, seats and power.’ Given the recent outrage over the Greens’ reluctance to buy into the asylum seeker politics of the major parties, such a discussion could hardly be more relevant both inside the party and among its supporters.

One obvious omission is a discussion of the decline of the ALP. That wasn’t an editorial decision, Loewenstein said, ‘[because] we don’t really think the ALP has any real chance of being a party who could harness a serious left vote on issues that matter,’ he said. While he doesn’t consider the Greens to be the ‘ipso facto answer’, Loewenstein thinks they’re in a position to harness both the disaffected Labor vote and those who have been excluded from the political process – new migrants, for example.

Members of the ALP’s Socialist Left might take umbrage with such a claim. For many in that branch of the party, Green politics has typically been viewed as a conservative, bourgeois concern that has little to offer workers. One could also argue, as do some of the sexier far-Left thinkers like Žižek, Alain Badiou and Jaques Ranciere, that environmentalism, as a symptom of our new ‘post-political’ world, has replaced religion as the increasingly legalistic and bureaucratic voice of prohibition. In this sense, Tad Tietze and Elizabeth Humphrys’ chapter on decoupling the climate debate from the market is a strong chapter, but one is also left wishing for a beefier Left critique of Australian green politics.

Many of Left Turn’s more polemical essays seem to lack an identifiable antagonist. If environmentalism, marriage equality, anti-racism and so on are becoming mainstream issues, with whom are we arguing? In fact, we’re already seeing many of the traditional ‘identity politics’ causes of the Left reorganised under a conservative or centrist rubric. The new Greens’ Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who until becoming a Green had been a dyed-in-the-wool Howard conservative, may be the best example of how formerly incompatible positions may be reconciled in the one person.

One could argue, and many of Left Turn’s authors do, for matters of emphasis or position – ‘liberal choice’ feminism versus a more ‘collective’ feminism, to use Jacinda Woodhead’s excellent contribution on the state of contemporary feminism as an example. But it seems problematic to respond to the mainstreaming of much of the Left’s project as ‘a great success’ by bemoaning the public for getting the details wrong. If anything, Woodhead’s point that identity politics must be located inside a collective movement is all the more important by the ongoing conservative co-option.

What’s more, once activists for the current trendy causes win their gay marriages, increases to aid budgets and the like, will they bother to stick around without a deeper economic or structural politics? When our generation’s Patrick Stevedores arrives, how many members of GetUp! will be willing to go to gaol?

Loewenstein agrees with the proposition, conceding that ‘it’s not something many young people on the left do address’, but isn’t pessimistic. The Occupy protests have made economics sexy again, he says.

‘The central point of it was to question the economic reality in the US and Europe, that was the key question that engaged a lot of young people—the economic system doesn’t work.’

This is where the best essay of the collection, Crikey contributor Guy Rundle’s critique of Westfield mega-mall culture and casual employment, absolutely hits the mark. It’s the most prescriptive, and that’s a good thing. As G.K. Chesterton said, ‘definitions are very dreadful things: they do the two things that most men, especially comfortable men, cannot endure. They fight; and they fight fair.’ Rundle definitely fights fair:

“From the New Left, there exists a remnant puritanism around the act of consumption, a celebration of austerity. Among progressive forces there remains a focus on the systemic and managerial, rather than the possibilities for the transformation of everyday life.”

Rather than try and pull legal levers to regulate individuals’ behaviour, Rundle suggests ‘a program where the state is an enabler of real choice between genuine life alternatives… Since it is time and space that have been colonised by capital… it is at this nexus that a struggle must be waged’.

This would mean arguing for the extension of benefits to the expanding casual and part-time workforce, fighting the developer-local government nexus to ensure the building of houses affordable on a single full-time wage and breaking the stranglehold mortgages have over peoples’ lives – reducing precariousness, and ‘stabilising and guaranteeing security in what already exists.’

If precariousness and alienation are the killer issues today, as Rundle says, then the authors’ original zombie analogy only does half as much work as it could. While post-apocalyptic fiction certainly does mirror the current pessimism, it also contains its own conservative utopian ideal: rugged survivalism.

Once all the moralists, feminists and technocrats have been eaten by the living dead, the real men will rise again to claim the earth. Stoicism with occasional necessary violent outbursts will be the order of the day. Every decision is life and death – no time for democracy. Everyone imagines they’d be the survivor who leads the group, not zombie fodder.

But in America this post-apocalyptic situation is becoming real for many following the 2008 financial crisis. The individualist ideal has become further entrenched by the Tea Party and the rising popularity of American libertarianism. Corey Robin, author of The Reactionary Mind, calls the push ‘democratic feudalism’ – capital offering lower- and middle-management petty privileges over women, migrants and the underemployed in return for fealty, made possible by a lack of civil society and legislative push-back.

Similarly, the conservative tide in Australia is already coming back in. One suspects that the ALP, now beyond the pale and scheduled for termination, will be missed by even its critics before too long. Does the new Left have time to continue pondering models to replace the global order? Perhaps it is time for manifestos. After all, to quote Chesterton again, ‘modern broad-mindedness benefits the rich; and benefits nobody else.’

Antony Loewenstein and Jeff Sparrow’s edited collection, Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left is available now through Melbourne University Publishing. RRP 27.99

– Adam Brereton is the Associate Editor of newmatilda.com. He tweets at @adambrereton

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