"A deeply though-provoking book about the dramatic changes we must make to save the planet from financial madness."--Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine
Opening with Oscar Wilde's observation that "nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing," Patel shows how our faith in prices as a way of valuing the world is misplaced. He reveals the hidden ecological and social costs of a hamburger (as much as $200), and asks how we came to have markets in the first place. Both the corporate capture of government and our current financial crisis, Patel argues, are a result of our democratically bankrupt political system.
If part one asks how we can rebalance society and limit markets, part two answers by showing how social organizations, in America and around the globe, are finding new ways to describe the world's worth. If we don't want the market to price every aspect of our lives, we need to learn how such organizations have discovered democratic ways in which people, and not simply governments, can play a crucial role in deciding how we might share our world and its resources in common.
This short, timely and inspiring book reveals that our current crisis is not simply the result of too much of the wrong kind of economics. While we need to rethink our economic model, Patel argues that the larger failure beneath the food, climate and economic crises is a political one. If economics is about choices, Patel writes, it isn't often said who gets to make them. The Value of Nothing offers a fresh and accessible way to think about economics and the choices we will all need to make in order to create a sustainable economy and society.
Expanding on his analysis and recommendations in Stuffed and Starved, which located the horrifying imbalance in the world's food system in its profit-driven framework, activist and academic Patel critiques "free market culture" at a moment of universal crisis, both economic and environmental. Beginning with a historically grounded account of market society's operative assumptions, "the way capitalism sets the terms of value," Patel takes aim at the notion of "Homo economicus": a vision of human beings as self-interested utility-maximizers integral to market society's dollar-valuation of everything. Through a shrewd and absorbing discussion, Patel exposes the flaws in the "model of the world in which people are... prepared to override their own better judgment in service of their selfish natures" and the nominal separation of the economy and the state, describing the relationship as compromised but also more "plastic" then we are often led to believe. With due attention to the developing world as well as Europe and North America, the author offers examples of the "countermovement" underway and urges us to build on a vision of ourselves far more extensive, generous and hopeful than that confined to market society's Homo economicus.
Ethical economics for our world
This short book is a jewel. Do not be discouraged by the cover. Patel has masterfully developed an ethical and rational approach to economics based on sociological and scientific data. Most of the points expressed in this book are referenced extensively. The arguments are well thought out and the writing is not technical. Anybody with an interest in our world, our society's future, and the well being of our common humanity will find this book compelling.