Disaster Capitalism


McNally Jackson Books

Image by Dogma Studios

The conception that capitalism is an economic system largely based on exploitative mechanisms has been widely affirmed, but whilst some of those mechanisms are more easily detectable – namely the exploitations of resources and workforce in non-western countries – others are more cautiously hidden. One of those is the transformation of humanitarian disasters into a commodity, into systemic resources that generate profit.

A few weeks ago we shared an extremely detailed Highline reportage that showed the different stages in which criminal organisations and corporations have been profiting from the migrant crisis. Because whilst on one side the global refugees crisis is unfolding itself in front of our eyes – and we find ourselves debating on the causes and eventual solutions to the issue – on the other side, several western corporations have already found devious ways to gain capital at the expense of the millions of victims of this displacement.

The refugee crisis isn’t the only case of humanitarian disaster turned into a profitable business. Journalist Antony Loewenstein has spent over three years traveling throughout Afghanistan, Greece, Haiti, Papua Nuova Guinea, the UK, and the US, to trace and connect the dots of one of the darkest and most disguised aspects of capitalism.

From private detention centers, to NGOs aid, and to the provision of military security in 'unsafe' zones, the list of privatised services that have been exploiting disasters across the world is as unsettling as it is long. Western private companies such as Halliburton, G4S, Serco and Capita have been intervening in vulnerable political situations to officially ‘re-establish order’, while unofficially generate profits from the disenfranchised people already victims of conflict, natural calamities, and political instabilities.

With the support of the media, the backup of elusive legislations, and the presence of weak and corruptible institutions, these corporations have become more powerful than local governments of the countries in which they intervene. Moreover, the scariest aspect of this chilling story is that those with power show no interest in solving these issues, on the contrary, it is in their best interest to keep certain nations in a constant state of crisis.