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.

Destroying US democracy from within

My book review in The Australian newspaper:

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

By Nancy MacLean

Scribe, $35, 368pp

As Hurricane Irma was pounding the US, President Donald Trump made a major announcement. He wanted huge tax cuts for the wealthiest members of society.

Standing alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Trump said that, “I think now with what’s happened with the hurricane, I’m gonna ask for a speed-up.”

Most of the mainstream media virtually ignored the announcement, rightly focused on the catastrophic weather disaster. But as Nancy MacLean, the William Chafe professor of history and public policy at Duke University, writes in the introduction to this extremely timely book, there’s an “attempt by the billionaire radical right to undo democratic governance”, and Trump’s desires fit perfectly.

Despite running as a political outsider during his contest with Hillary Clinton, Trump has appointed more economic reactionaries from investment bank Goldman Sachs, senior executives at the heart of the 2008 global financial crisis, than presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama combined.

Defending his decision to surround himself with economic advisers he’d criticised a few months earlier, Trump said he wanted “great, brilliant business minds … so the world doesn’t take advantage of us … I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person.”

Nobel prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan, a largely unknown man who inspired a generation of ultra-rich Americans that democracy was the enemy of progress, is the focus of ­MacLean’s investigation. Buchanan’s vision, pushed today by the billionaire Koch brothers, was designed to disenfranchise the bulk of the population because, as MacLean told US news show Democracy Now! in June, “democracy must be, in effect, shackled to ­prevent the majority will from being expressed because it would take too much from people of great wealth and that would be a problem for them”.

To understand the threat to democratic norms outlined by MacLean, along with the corrupting nature of opaque campaign financing by corporations and the mega-wealthy, one must appreciate the vision that’s being articulated with surprising success in the 21st century.

The Republican Party has been largely hijacked by individuals who loathe any form of compromise. Beyond that, they want “liberty”, and by that they mean the insulation of private property rights from the reach of government — and the takeover of what was long public (schools, prisons, western lands and much more) by corporations, a system that would radically reduce the freedom of the many.

Buchanan was born in Tennessee in 1919 and became a professor at George Mason Univer­sity and other institutions across the US. In the age of mass segregation in US schools and the famous Supreme Court decision in 1954 — Brown v Board of Education proved that it was unconstitutional to have separate public schools for blacks and whites — Buchanan was on the wrong side of history. He worried about the government having any role in telling ­society how it should act. In an essay with fellow academic Warren Nutter, they stated that “every individual should be free to associate with persons of his own choosing”, a common phrasing used by segregationists.

The relationship between Buchanan and Charles Koch developed across decades. The establishment of the Cato Institute in the 1970s signalled a significant development in the evolution of their mutual hatred of government.

MacLean explains how the think tank has long had a “revolutionary” opposition to unions, intellectuals who back government intervention and corporations that crave benefits through lobbying.

Cato’s success has been across the political divide, though far stronger in the Republican Party, and pushed the American centre much further to the right. It’s no accident that such policies have led to profound economic distress for millions of Americans, at least partially explaining why many bought the lies of economic renewal sold to them by Trump.

The idea that the state should be made to ­almost disappear and private enterprise control all levels of society was why Buchanan became an enthusiastic supporter of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (along with fellow economist Milton Friedman). He travelled to the country to help write its constitution. The torture and killings were clearly no impediment to his ­agenda of mass privatisation and austerity. It failed and the economy collapsed in 1982.

A key component of Buchanan’s thinking was an understanding that his policy proscriptions had to be imposed by stealth.

MacLean forensically examines why this was so necessary, in past decades and today, because the public would never approve of slow-motion privatisation and the eradication of public ser­vices. It’s why Trump and his allies could try to implement radical economic ­policies only during moments of societal distress or disaster. Using public shock is an opportunity too good to miss.

This book’s importance cannot be underestimated because countless policies advocated by all sides in politics today have their roots in ­Buchananism. From the privatisation of schools and prisons to the outsourcing of war and aid, MacLean warns that many leaders of the libertarian cause have “no scruples about enlisting white supremacy to achieve capital supremacy”.

This obviously applies to Trump but it’s simplistic to presume this problem can be solved by removing him or the Republican Party from power. Many Democrats, along with the mainstream capitalist, political class across the world in Australia, Europe and Britain, share the same goal: societies with a minimal safety net.

MacLean shows us the roots of this pernicious ideology in this powerful and disturbing book but questions whether the forces marshalled against it are strong enough to defeat it.

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist and author of Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing Out of Catastrophe. He is writing a book on the global war on drugs.

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