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Nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives: these are the seven things that have made our world and will shape its future. In making these things cheap, modern commerce has transformed, governed, and devastated Earth. In A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore present a new approach to analyzing today's planetary emergencies. Bringing the latest ecological research together with histories of colonialism, indigenous struggles, slave revolts, and other rebellions and uprisings, Patel and Moore demonstrate that throughout history, crises have always prompted fresh strategies to make the world cheap and safe for capitalism. At a time of crisis in all seven cheap things, innovative and systemic thinking is urgently required. A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things proposes a radical new way of understanding – and reclaiming – the planet in the turbulent twenty-first century.
1. Cheap Nature
2. Cheap Money
3. Cheap Work
4. Cheap Care
5. Cheap Food
6. Cheap Energy
7. Cheap Lives
Raj Patel is an award-winning writer, activist and academic. He is a Research Professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin and a Senior Research Associate at the Unit for the Humanities at Rhodes University. He is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing.
Jason W. Moore teaches world history and world-ecology at Binghamton University, and is coordinator of the World-Ecology Research Network. He is the author of several books, including Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital, and numerous award-winning essays in environmental history, political economy, and social theory.
"Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore have transformed 'cheapness' into a brilliant and original lens that helps us understand the most pressing crises of our time, from hyper-exploitation of labor to climate change. They demystify the systemic forces that have gotten us here, showing how our various struggles for justice are connected. As we come together to build a better world, this book could well become a defining framework to broaden and deepen our ambitions."
– Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough and This Changes Everything
"It's remarkably rare that authors manage to find a really useful new lens through which to view the world – but Patel and Moore have done just that, writing an eye-opening account that helps us see the startling reality behind what we usually dismiss as the obvious and everyday."
– Bill McKibben, author of Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance
"World system histories of ambition and scope go back at least to Ibn Khaldun, and in recent years important contributions have been made by William McNeill, Immanuel Wallerstein, Andre Gunder Frank, Jared Diamond, and Giovanni Arrighi. Moore and Patel here make an exciting addition to that field. They combine a socioeconomic vision with a strong ecological basis, so that history is now explained as people interacting not just with other people but with Earth's biosphere, a crucial element of the story. The result is a compelling interpretation of how we got to where we are now, and how we might go on to create a more just and sustainable civilization. It's a vision you can put to use."
– Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the Mars trilogy
"What a relief to read a bold, grand narrative of European colonialism/capitalism and its destruction of the environment as well as reducing whole civilizations to enslavement, impoverishment and ruin – just what is needed at this time to contextualize the many granular studies we now have access to. Patel and Moore have provided not only an elegantly written and insightful narrative, but also a path to imagine a noncapitalist future."
– Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States
"With its rich theoretical language and wealth of empirical details A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things is an important critique of neoliberal economics and much of the radical discourse on ecology. It is a powerful, well-argued, passionate counterpoint to the belief that we have transitioned to a post-capitalist world."
– Silvia Federici, author of Caliban and the Witch
"This is a highly original, brilliantly conceptualized analysis of the effects of capitalism on seven key aspects of the modern world. Written with verve and drawing on a range of disciplines, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things is full of novel insights."
– Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
"This book is a remarkable achievement: it makes the history of capitalism from Columbus to climate change into a page-turner. If you've been wondering how we got into this mess, what care work has to do with ecological crisis, why racism is intertwined with capitalism at the roots, Patel and Moore are the guides you need."
– Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt
"An informed, sometimes acute, polemic against capitalism's half-millennium of colonial exploitation."
"Moore and Patel's expansive view of capitalism makes it possible to understand a much broader coalition of struggles as anti-capitalist and capable of helping to head off climate change."
– Alyssa Battistoni, The Nation
"Moore's academic rigour and Patel's accessible writing style mean this book can be recommended to friends who have yet to understand the cruelty of capitalism and how categories of race and gender have been construed to fuel it."
– Red Pepper
"If Patel and Moore don't quite make it to Mars, their book still covers an awful lot of ground. They move rapidly between economic analysis, history and political polemic, all in service of the premise that all the cheapness has in fact been catastrophically expensive [...] the overall impression is one of sweeping erudition, and an impressive ability to synthesise disparate elements."
– Mark O'Connell, Guardian
"Their central argument – that the inevitable trajectory of capitalism is a race to the bottom in which we all end as losers – is surely one that needs to be heard."
– New Internationalist
"By shifting our attention away from the question of global warming to focus on the larger ideological manoeuvrings underpinning the way capitalism seeks to organise nature, Moore and Patel persuasively demonstrate that our responses to the crises of capitalism and climate that we are facing should not be exclusively about preventing catastrophic ecological change by blocking runway expansions. Instead, their work suggests that we are potentially seeing an unravelling of a much more complicated and convoluted set of longer running crises of capital that are becoming increasingly unmanageable, and not just because of heat waves or rising sea levels."
– Andrew Key, New Socialist
"[A] highly readable, heavily-sourced book."
– John Fullerton, Freedom News
"Making the persuasive argument that capitalism is more than just an economic system, Patel and Moore illustrate how it has succeeded in creating an overwhelming planetary ecology, separating humans from the rest of nature, organising every relationship between them and exploiting all available resources to work for it as cheaply as possible."
– Jamie Johnson, Morning Star