RAJ PATEL on Cheapness in the Age of Capitalism /137

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This week, For The Wild is joined by Raj Patel, co-author of A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, which traces the historical origins of capitalism and the making of “cheapness.” Jason W. Moore and Raj write, “Cheap is a strategy, a practice, a violence that mobilizes all kinds of work—human and animal, botanical and geological—with as little compensation as possible.” The cheapness that marks our everyday experiences and transactions in a capitalist world isn’t natural or inevitable; rather, cheapness arises as a particular historical and sociocultural ideology, one that has been used to sustain the capitalist machine and its violences. Unearthing the true cost of cheapness, Raj dives into questions of justice and reparations for the land, labor, and lives made “disposable” under capitalism.

We’ve been denied the right and the capacity to imagine what the world might be like after capitalism. That’s why most of us can rather imagine the end of the world rather than the end of capitalism.
— Raj Patel / Episode 137
Raj Patel, photo by Sheila Menezes

Raj Patel, photo by Sheila Menezes

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 the university currently known as Rhodes University (UHURU), South Africa. He has degrees from the University of Oxford, the London School of Economics and Cornell University, has worked for the World Bank and WTO, and protested against them around the world. Raj co-taught the 2014 Edible Education class at UC Berkeley with Michael Pollan. In 2016 he was recognized with a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award. He has testified about the causes of the global food crisis to the US House Financial Services Committee and was an Advisor to Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

Together, Raj and Ayana discuss cheapness in relation to the prison industrial complex, the invisibility of domestic labor and care work, the fallacies of fair trade, and the enclosure of the commons. How does modern-day cheapness deny collective fulfillment in our work and create a void of connection in our communities? What forms of recognition, reparations, and redistribution are urgently needed for justice and reinvestment in the sacred? As the commodification and devaluation of life plunges us deeper into ecological crisis, may we awaken to the truth that cheapness can’t last forever.

♫ Music by Lea Thomas & John Thayer

RAJ’s REFERENCES & RECOMMENDATIONS

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

  • Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation by Sylvia Federici

  • Movements: La Via Campesina/International Peasant’s Movement, Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter, Leap, and Idle No More (http://www.idlenomore.ca/).

MORE BOOKS BY RAJ

  • Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System

  • The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy


About Our Podcast…

At For The Wild, we discuss the critical ideas of our time and parlay them into action for the defense and regeneration of natural communities. Key topics include the rediscovery of wild nature, ecological renewal and resistance, and healing from the trauma of individualistic society. We will travel deep into ancient forests, align with the struggles and ways of Earth-based people, and rekindle the mysteries of intuition. We will join today’s brightest visionaries in this momentous work of reimagining a world where humanity can find its way back into the web of life.

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