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The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy [Kindle Edition]

Raj Patel
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
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Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

"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.



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“With great lucidity and confidence in a dazzling array of fields, Patel reveals how we inflate the cost of things we can (and often should) live without, while assigning absolutely no value to the resources we all need to survive. This is a deeply thought-provoking book about the dramatic changes we must make to save the planet from financial madness -- argued with so much humor and humanity that the enormous tasks ahead feel both doable and desirable. This is Raj Patel's great gift: he makes even the most radical ideas seem not only reasonable, but inevitable. A brilliant book.”--Naomi Klein, author The Shock Doctrine

"As we confront the crisis in the worldview of orthodox economics, Raj Patel offers us a whole new way to think about price and value.  Bracingly written and full of surprises, The Value of Nothing is itself invaluable, showing us a path out of the darkness of the economic woods."--Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma

“With THE VALUE OF NOTHING, Raj Patel has done something of great value: in language utterly clear, concise, literate, and engaging, he takes readers through the murk and mess of the economy's collapse. He shows the hows and whys, how we seem bent on a repeat (no real substantive changes to the practices that got us where we are, at the policy level), but also how we, in our communities, if not larger concerted efforts, have some power to right the course. What Raj Patel did so brilliantly with food in STUFFED AND STARVED, he now does so with money and the economy.”--Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company



“In this riveting eye-opener of a book, Patel dismantles with great fluidity and precision the reigning theory of the free market and its applications: how it creates in our global society deep inequalities of power, based solely on the diktat that our fundamental  ne...


Product Details

  • File Size: 473 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1 edition (January 5, 2010)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0032BW5D4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,136 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
(51)
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
76 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
"The Value of Nothing" follows on the heels of a number of books arguing the need for societies to re-evaluate themselves in a multitude of ways. A veritable cottage industry of such books have popped up in recent months including $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better, Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It,Free: The Future of a Radical Price, and many others which point at our need to fundamentally reassess our way of doing business. While those books looked as small aspects of needed change, such as more efficient use of oil, inefficiencies and problems in the food industry, and digitization and file sharing, in "The Value of Nothing" Raj Patel instead takes a shot at the drastic and rather dramatic changes societies need to make to ensure their future success and survival. While ostensibly about finance and economics, Patel's work touches on virtually every aspect of modern society and does so in a language that is easily comprehended by non-specialists and lay people alike. Patel's explanation of how and why the economy collapsed is perhaps the most cogent and concise I've yet read to date, something he did so well with his prior book Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, which looked at the problems of the global food supply system. Read more ›
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A paradigm shift January 18, 2010
Format:Paperback
As a self-styled amateur, underground economist, I've been looking for a book like Raj Patel's that knowledgeably describes the processes that lead to our recent economic collapse and then offers us a chance to shift our way of thinking so as to create a different outcome in the future. I fear that without implementing some of these changes--which entail shifting the way we see the world and value its components--the world economy is headed for another, and worse, collapse. The Value of Nothing is unflinching but hopeful. It is detailed and informed but centered on the big picture--on changes that can actually free us from our current muck. And its vivid, fast moving and a pleasure to read. An excellent and important book on a very important subject.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice examples, poor theory August 3, 2010
Format:Paperback
This book contains much that is important, interesting and true, but falls short in the attempt to integrate these things in a coherent framework.

Patel deals with issues that are fundamental to our survival and well-being on this planet: how to organize our political and economic life. His thesis is that we have let greedy markets and unresponsive governments run the show for too long. It is time to look for alternatives: autonomous community regulation and direct democracy, preferably combined. Patel gives many interesting examples how communities have been able to both govern their economic resources in a responsible way (relating to the work by Nobelprize winner Elinor Ostrom) and have set up direct democracy institutions to settle political issues (like the Zapatistas in Mexico). The book points out the (in my eyes relatively uncontroversial) fact that an unregulated market system has flaws. The most important perhaps being the existence of externalities. An externality exists if the price of a transaction does not cover all the social costs that are involved in it. One can think of buying a cheap airline tickets, which does not (fully) incorporate the environmental cost of air pollution.

Although there are valuable and interesting insights along the way, the book is only partly convincing at its central thesis. One main problem is that the book offers just community level examples. By contrast, the problems that Patel talks about (his main themes are climate change and environmental degradation) are problems that cannot be solved exclusively at a community level, but require national or global institutions. Patel does not dedicate a single word to the question of how his examples could be scaled up to such levels.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph of democratic thinking January 15, 2010
By A. Bing
Format:Paperback
An eye-opening and surprisingly upbeat account of democratic responses to economic crisis, The Value of Nothing is a must-read for all of us white-knuckling our way through ongoing economic turmoil, beset by private economic woes and baffled by public policies bolstering the institutions that failed us.

While free-market die-hards blithely rationalize the latest economic absurdities - billion-dollar bailouts, disappearing pension funds, alarming poverty growth rates in first-world nations - with the spectacularly unreassuring mantra "it's all cyclical," Dr. Patel establishes the foundations for lasting economic reform in The Value of Nothing. From Minneapolis citizen-policy-makers to self-organized shack-dwellers' communities in Durban, South Africa, Patel finds citizens' groups taking the initiative to meet community needs, instead of waiting for markets to distribute Invisible Handouts.

A veteran of the World Bank and World Trade Organization, Patel has a deep understanding of our global economic system and keen awareness of its shortcomings. But The Value of Nothing is not a dire screed about inevitable economic failures: it's a constructive critique of obviously flawed systems, and an inspiring testament to the power of democracy to improve our shared economic fates.

With creative problem-solving and evident compassion, The Value of Nothing is a rare example of clear, constructive thinking in the midst of a devastating crisis. Far from a dismal scientist, Patel emerges as an economic reformer of the first order, and a global thought leader worth following.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Something we knew in our bones
The author addresses some key aspects of the modern industrialized 21 st century world, where we as a society have decided to disproportionately reward speculators and corrupt CEOs... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Orwell
4.0 out of 5 stars You will want to OCCUPY Wall Street
All I can say is buy it! You won't be disappointed only intrigued. Shipped fast and packaged nicely! A Must Read!
Published 15 months ago by Kirsten W.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
The book was pretty unbiased, and it made some really good points. I enjoyed the read, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to get some simple insight on the economy.
Published 15 months ago by Miranda
5.0 out of 5 stars There is more to life than economics
There is more to life than money and economics. And there are more kinds of economics than the sort that currently rules this world. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Lambarie
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected Treasure
One of the best and most interesting books I've read on this topic
or any other topic. Extremely readable and interesting quotes from
various sources that were include.
Published 23 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars THIS 'BOOK' HAS A VALUE OF NOTHING
I have no idea which 'book' some of the 'reviewers' on here have been reading.

This 'book' is a list of incoherent, rambling scenarios that have little connection to... Read more
Published 24 months ago by THE TRUTH
3.0 out of 5 stars Failure of market to properly assign value
Not like most anti-capitalist diatribes that claim capitalism is totally corrupt and unchangeable, this is a well thought out attempt to incorporate sociology into the financial... Read more
Published on February 13, 2012 by Gderf
1.0 out of 5 stars Rosemary's Other Baby
I won't bore everyone with a history lesson on the "soft sale." Mr. Patel enjoys a second life in cyber-space as the much anticipated "beast" of the Holy Bible's last book. Read more
Published on February 7, 2012 by Wackjob
2.0 out of 5 stars Same old song
The Value of Nothing has one bright moment--see the first paragraph on p.172. Outside of that quip, this is a mediocre,tedious, and tendentious book. Read more
Published on September 6, 2011 by J. Davis
3.0 out of 5 stars 3-1/2 stars, fashionably politically correct
Mr. Patel has assembled a number of factoids, statistics, stories, and anecdotes into a treatise.
A number of the ideas and points that he discusses are very important and... Read more
Published on August 14, 2011 by S. Jones
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More About the Author

RAJ PATEL is a Fellow at the Institute for Food and Development Policy (also known as Food First), a leading food think tank, and a visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for African Studies. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian and The Observer, is a regular contributor to NPR and independent media outlets, and though he has worked for the World Bank, WTO and the UN, he's also been tear-gassed on four continents protesting them. Visit his website at www.rajpatel.org

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