A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things by Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore
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.