In his 2008 book, Stuffed and Starved, Raj Patel exposed the roots of a global food system that fattens one billion people while another 800 million go hungry.
This time around he’s skipped the entrée and devoured the big cheese: capitalism. Or more specifically, the idea that the price of something is a good indicator of its value (see the global financial crisis). Prices, he argues, are blind to ecological and social ills and “at best, only give a blurry sense of priorities and possibilities”.
Patel, an academic, activist and former employee of the World Bank, offers up a lively, easy-to-read critique of free market economics and corporate power. And where other recent critics failed to promote meaningful change (ahem, Kevin Rudd), he doesn’t shy away from the radical consequences of acknowledging that markets don’t sell magic happiness beans.
With examples drawn from Chile to Pakistan, Patel promotes a society sweetened by small-scale cooperation and infused with active local democracy. Whether you’re puzzled by economics or worried about the future, The Value of Nothing makes bracing and inspiring reading.