17 May 2010

The Value of Nothing

Written by Published in Book Reviews

In The Value of Nothing, Raj Patel recalls how his favourite thing in his father’s shop when growing up was the pricing gun. He goes on to show how, since the 1970s, free-market gurus such as Friedman, Volcker and Greenspan have held sway. 

That the result of banking on the omniscience of the free market is not only the state that we are currently in, but that we now live in a society where we know everything about cost but precious little about value. We have become consumers, hot-wired to be selfish.

Depressed yet? Well, don’t be, because the second half of Patel’s book is upbeat and inspiring. He shows that research points to an inbuilt desire for altruism and fairness in human nature, arguing that the opposite of consumption is not thriftiness but generosity.

Championing the idea of ‘the common’, describing how social organisations are finding new ways of describing the world’s worth, The Value of Nothing upholds those aspects of an emerging movement we can all begin to feel part of: discussion, regulation, trust, generosity, cooperation. Contemporary and fresh, Patel manages the tension between the uniqueness of the individual and the significance of community and the state.

A wonderful book.

The Value of Nothing by Raj Patel (Portobello) £12.99

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