A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet

Raj Patel, Jason W. Moore

A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet
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A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet

Raj Patel, Jason W. Moore

Nature, Money, Work, Care, Food, Energy, and Lives.

These are the seven things that have made our world and will continue to shape its future. By making these things cheap, modern commerce has controlled, transformed, and devastated the 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 uprisings, Patel and Moore demonstrate how throughout history, crises have always provided fresh opportunities to make the world cheap and safe for capitalism.

At a time of crisis for all these seven cheap things, innovative systemic thinking is urgently required. This book proposes a radical new way of understanding-and reclaiming-the planet in the turbulent twenty-first century.


Don’t be fooled by the simplistic title of this book as there are profound insights into the economic, social and environmental processes of the planet to be found on almost every page. The authors have managed to achieve the near impossible task of bringing together research and theory from seemingly disparate disciplines to try and explain how the earth and its people have ended up in a state of environmental emergency.

Complex terms such as ‘World Ecology’ and ‘Capitalocene’ are deftly explained and used to re-imagine history in a way that will challenge everything you thought you knew about the way the world works. The seven ‘cheap things’ from the title are nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives. For capitalism to thrive these are the things that have been devalued and unequally compensated. Binaries such as ‘society and nature, coloniser and colonised, man and woman, the West and the Rest, white and non-white, capitalist and worker’ have been normalised in order to violently dominate most humans and the natural world.

But this is not a book without hope. The authors want to write slaves, Indigenous People, women, and workers who have always resisted the capitalist order back into history. Current groups such as La Via Campesina (International Peasant’s Movement), Movement for Black Lives and Reclaim the Streets are all developing alternative frameworks for the planet. The authors’ own contribution offers a program of ‘recognition, redistribution, reparation, re-imagination and recreation’.

This book is challenging but more than worth the effort and essential reading for anyone interested in history, politics, economics, environmental studies, philosophy, feminism or cultural studies.

Kara Nicholson is part of the online Readings team.

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