22 January 2010

The Value of Nothing

I'm currently reading "The Value of Nothing" by Raj Patel, and although I'm only half way through I thought I would give it and its writer a little plug this morning.

2007's "Stuffed and Starved" was one of my top reads of the year, and a perfect compliment to Michael Pollan's "Omnivores Dilemma", in that while Pollan concentrated on an Amero-centric examination of the origins of the food he himself ate, Patel's work delved into the multinational food industry and global food trade and the consequences of cheap western food for marginalized food producers in the majority world. It was a very well researched alter-globalisation take on the real cost of food, and I loved it.

"Value of Nothing" goes beyond the food industry and places consumer culture and capitalism itself under the microscope, and rather than just energetic polemic he attempts to provide workable, albeit radical, alternatives.

Beyond these books Patel has embraced digital culture, originally shortly after college through joint editorship of the online journal 'Voice of the Turtle', then through Stuffedandstarved.org, launched to promote his book, and now more recently at rajpatel.org, where he casts a much wider net and is a feed definitely worth subscribing to.

Although Oxford and LSE educated he clearly feels as comfortable marching shoulder to shoulder with his Compañeros in the Global South as he does delivering key note lectures at academic conferences, and his extensive experience in post-Apartheid South Africa and Zimbabwe has given him a unique world-view and a writing voice that I find compelling.

While "The Value of Nothing" is definitely aimed at a mass-market audience rather than an academic one and is a lighter read than his earlier work, it is engaging and ire-provoking enough that it gets a solid two-thumbs up from Unkie Dave.

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