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The Big Answer


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A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet

a book by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore

(our site's book review)

Patel and Moore Reduce History Down to a Matter of Cheapness

The Amazon blurb says that Nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives: these are the seven things that have made our world and will shape its future. In making these things cheap, modern commerce has transformed, governed, and devastated Earth. In A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore present a new approach to analyzing today’s planetary emergencies. Bringing the latest ecological research together with histories of colonialism, indigenous struggles, slave revolts, and other rebellions and uprisings, Patel and Moore demonstrate that throughout history, crises have always prompted fresh strategies to make the world cheap and safe for capitalism. At a time of crisis in all seven cheap things (Nature, Money, Work, Care, Food, Energy, and Lives), innovative and systemic thinking is urgently required. This book proposes a radical new way of understanding—and reclaiming—the planet in the turbulent twenty-first century.


The American Empire is Copying the British Empire, Using the Worst Ideas of Neoliberalism to Wrest Resourses from Smaller Nations No Matter How Many Bodies Are Left Behind

The American Empire is copying the British Empire, using the worst ideas of neoliberalism to wrest resourses from smaller nations no matter how many bodies are left behind
The American Empire is copying the British Empire, using the worst ideas of neoliberalism to wrest resourses from smaller nations no matter how many bodies are left behind

The book says that "throughout history, crises have always prompted fresh strategies to make the world cheap and safe for capitalism," but in the 20th and 21st centuries, dozens of times the U.S. purposely and ruthlessly generated the crises as strategies to make the world cheap and safe for capitalism—no matter who suffered or got hurt or killed. Crises were often purposeful and man-made—they didn't just happen. They were part of the neoliberal formula. (Reaganomics was the most notable 20th century version of neoliberalism, but the 2007-2008 crash showed it was fatally flawed so an alternative was sought to this elite-favoring version of capitalism.) The American Empire was and is copying the British Empire—which exploited others similarly, and which lasted from 1497 to 1997—500 years. See for yourself:

Feudalism collapsed, and this meant the elites had to look beyond exploiting peasants and serfs for their wealth; they chose empire building
Feudalism collapsed, and this meant the elites had to look beyond exploiting peasants and serfs for their wealth; they chose empire building

Feudalism collapsed, and this meant the elites had to look beyond exploiting peasants and serfs for their wealth. They chose empire building, and it worked for nearly five centuries until the colonies became too expensive and/or hostile to maintain. The American colonies weren't the only colonies to fight against British rule, but the American colonies' revolt had the best outcome (for us). The British Empire skidded to an inglorious halt in 1997 when China got Hong Kong.

The American colonies weren't the only colonies to fight against British rule, but the American colonies' revolt had the best outcome (for us)
The American colonies weren't the only colonies to fight against British rule, but the American colonies' revolt had the best outcome (for us)

Nature Has Often Been Destroyed and Utilized Simultaneously as Part of Capitalism's Ruthless Efficiency

As Patel and Moore tell it, "Through frontiers, states and empires use violence, culture, and knowledge to mobilize natures at low cost. It’s this cheapening that makes frontiers so central to modern history and that makes possible capitalism’s expanding markets . . . capitalism has thrived not because it is violent and destructive (it is) but because it is productive in a particular way. Capitalism thrives not by destroying natures but by putting natures to work—as cheaply as possible." Many—us included—will take issue with the authors' characterization of capitalism thriving not by destroying natures but by putting natures to work, when, in point of fact, nature has often been destroyed and utilized simultaneously as part of capitalism's ruthless efficiency. See:

Feudalism collapsed, so the British moved on to empire building, and it worked for nearly five centuries until the colonies became too expensive and/or hostile to maintain
Feudalism collapsed, so the British moved on to empire building, and it worked for nearly five centuries until the colonies became too expensive and/or hostile to maintain

The Average U.S. Citizen Has No Awareness of U.S. Empire Building Plans

The main differences between the British and American Empires is that the British admitted they had such a thing and it took invading and conquering to keep it going—and "cheap." The American Empire is not much of a surprise to the better educated among us, or to the rest of the world's population. But to average U.S. citizens, the phrase will earn one a blank stare. The American Empire has used various propaganda techniques (including outrageously lying) to keep their empire secret from the 5% of the world's population that live here. It uses various fraudulent justifications for each invasion and conquest (e.g., WMDs and the foolish, illegal, immoral, merciless Iraq invasion).

The U.S. uses various fraudulent justifications for each invasion and conquest (e.g., WMDs and the foolish, illegal, immoral, merciless Iraq invasion)
The U.S. uses various fraudulent justifications for each invasion and conquest (e.g., WMDs and the foolish, illegal, immoral, merciless Iraq invasion)

There have been dozens of countries that the U.S. has invaded, interfered with, threatened, bombed, etc.—but let's let an expert tell us:

"Our leaders are cruel because only those willing to be inordinately cruel and remorseless can hold positions of leadership in the foreign policy establishment. People capable of expressing a full human measure of compassion and empathy toward faraway powerless strangers do not become president of the United States, or vice president, or secretary of state, or national security adviser or secretary of the treasury. Nor do they want to. . . . From 1945 to 2003, the United States attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements fighting against intolerable regimes. In the process, the US bombed some 25 countries, caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair."—William Blum, author of America's Deadliest Export: Democracy - The Truth about US Foreign Policy and Everything Else. See also Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.

The US has bombed some 25 countries since WWII, caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair
The US has bombed some 25 countries since WWII, caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair


The reason the corporatocracy cannot be concerned with pollution is that capitalism requires CHEAP; and preventing air, water, and soil pollution would add significant costs to production and deplete profits—goodbye CHEAP
The reason the corporatocracy cannot be concerned with pollution is that capitalism requires CHEAP; and preventing air, water, and soil pollution would add significant costs to production and deplete profits—goodbye CHEAP

Warmongering Neocons and Corporatocracy Oligarchs Start Wars Because of the Money They'll Be Earning from War Profiteering

The domino theory of communist domination states that if we let one country fall to the commies, the rest will fall too—like dominoes in a row
The domino theory of communist domination states that if we let one country fall to the commies, the rest will fall too—like dominoes in a row

We love the USA but are not too thrilled with the stupid decisions our leaders have made since FDR and WWII. What could be more idiotic than the whole Vietnam War fiasco and the Iraq War? Most people knew what a load of baloney the extensive propaganda campaigns (e.g., the domino theory of communist domination) were that pushed us into those wars, but warmongering neocons and corporatocracy oligarchs wanted the money they'd be earning from war profiteering so the wars happened against public sentiment to the contrary. And we call this a democracy???!!! Did YOU vote for any of these wars, attacks, coups, bombings, or assassinations? No? Neither did we.

Immense political influence is created due to corporatocracy lobbying efforts and campaign contributions to members of the United States Congress in the promotion of war efforts. In 2010, the defense industry spent $144 million on lobbying and donated over $22.6 million to congressional candidates. So therefore our leaders want war. So therefore our corporatocracy propaganda campaigns want war. So therefore our gullible citizens want war—and yet, no one really wants war. Elites are greedy and want more money and yachts. Period. That is the only genuine desire—all the rest is marketing, lying, bribing, etc. Something is rotten in Washington!

Our warmongering neocons and corporatocracy oligarchs get rich off creating misery in other countries as they pilfer resourses. Something is rotten in Washington!
Our warmongering neocons and corporatocracy oligarchs get rich off creating misery in other countries as they pilfer resourses. Something is rotten in Washington!


The U.S. is dumb, impatient, and staggering under the weight of the flaws in capitalism, neoliberalism, and neoconservativism simultaneously while we shoot ourselves in the foot
The U.S. is dumb, impatient, and staggering under the weight of the flaws in capitalism, neoliberalism, and neoconservativism simultaneously while we shoot ourselves in the foot

Propaganda Must Be Ever-Present to Numb the Herd of Citizens into Reluctant Obedience

The problem with the bewildered herd (citizens) is that it can never truly be tamed, only contained. And so propaganda—the whip of the lion tamer—must be ever-present to numb the herd into reluctant obedience. See:

The problem with the bewildered herd (citizens) is that it can never truly be tamed, only contained. And so propaganda—the whip of the lion tamer—must be ever-present to numb the herd into reluctant obedience
The problem with the bewildered herd (citizens) is that it can never truly be tamed, only contained. And so propaganda—the whip of the lion tamer—must be ever-present to numb the herd into reluctant obedience


The rest of the world sees that our military believes that Might Makes Right but constantly keeps illustrating that Might Makes Stupid
The rest of the world sees that our military believes that Might Makes Right but constantly keeps illustrating that Might Makes Stupid

Patel and Moore Advocate "Dreaming Seditiously"—Beyond Capitalism and Its Insistent Cheapening

"'Reparation ecology' means, Patel and Moore imply, to 'dream seditiously', to dream beyond capitalism and its insistent cheapening of the systems of relation upon which it is built. This dream, this creative act of reimagining and reordering the web of life, is a way of reaching past, and indeed without, binary coding. Capitalism, on the other hand, is a firm binary, write Patel and Moore, working 'not just as description but as normative program for ordering—and cheapening—humans and the rest of nature.' Projecting beyond that code, dreaming seditiously of a world that is constituted by attention to justice and quality rather than single-minded fixation on the cheap, is a project both embodied and empowered by" this book. (Source: On the Cheap: ‘A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things’ (2017), Clint Wilson III, CENHS)

Perhaps Patel's and Moore's book is following the airport bookstore quickie formula: Take a familiar topic, reduce it down to easily digestible morsels, choose an airport bookstore title, and attract impulse buyers who wish to comprehend complicated topics the cheap and dirty way with very little thinking needed. The Secret to Long Life, 10 People You Really Need to Meet, Computer Science for Dummies, and now: A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet. Each of the seven types of cheapness is a result of reductionism that —as it often does—muddles rather than clarifies, butchers rather than manipulates.


We Advocate Reading More Wisely. Not Patel's and Moore's Books. Instead, Read Toffler.

Toffler books (Powershift, Future Shock, and The Third Wave) have no patience for reductionism. Part of Second Wave thinking is reductionism in which understanding is attempted via the study of the parts rather than the whole or the system. One vital characteristic of the core of Second Wave/mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm thinking is its win-lose context, exemplified here as imperialists win, colonial citizens lose.

People used as cannon fodder—a perfect metaphor for win-lose, neoliberal, Second Wave, mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm thinking, where elites win but soldiers (on both sides of the conflict) lose
People used as cannon fodder—a perfect metaphor for win-lose, neoliberal, Second Wave, mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm thinking, where elites win but soldiers (on both sides of the conflict) lose

Alvin Toffler's books join the parade of books advocating our adopting the new, Third Wave/ecological-holistic paradigm as opposed to retaining the old, mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm which is the underlying model of imperialism, neoliberalism, the Industrial Revolution, and war itself. The Third Wave and the new ecological paradigm overlap extensively. Toffler calls for us to welcome and usher in the Third Wave quickly because of all the social, political, national, and world dysfunctionality which is caused by hanging on to the old, anachronistic paradigm out of habit and a quest for the security of simplification.

Second Wave politics is a case in point—it’s totally out of whack, making government merely a tool to enrich the elites at our expense. Look at what is happening to the U.S. and many other countries. Second Wave neoliberalism is another case in point—its violence-based strategies and reductionistic profit-at-any-cost context makes it inappropriate for this world of finite resourses and delicate natural systems.

Second Wave politics is a case in point—it’s totally out of whack, making government merely a tool to enrich the elites at our expense—the rich are shaking down the nonrich
Second Wave politics is a case in point—it’s totally out of whack, making government merely a tool to enrich the elites at our expense—the rich are shaking down the nonrich

Having outlined the thinking of the guy who gets it right, by avoiding reductionistic simplification and embracing the complexities of systems thinking, holism, and ecological models that factor in such things as the hidden costs of imperialism's consequences, let's return to the book at hand: A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things. Its point is also, of course, that we need to factor in such things as the hidden costs of imperialism's profits and rethink the need for a violent context for capitalism. And the cheapness idea as the lowest common denominator is a creative idea.

But as Ian Angus says in Do seven cheap things explain the history of capitalism?, Raj Patel's and Jason W. Moore's book "replaces concrete analysis with an artificial schema that reduces the complex organic relationship between society and the rest of nature to cheap things." Isn't this type of reductionism the exact thing we are trying to avoid? These authors using it as a key element in their analysis is like a parent teaching his toddler to stop hitting his brother by giving him a spanking!

These authors using reductionism as a key element in their analysis is like a parent teaching his toddler to stop hitting his brother by giving him a spanking!
These authors using reductionism as a key element in their analysis is like a parent teaching his toddler to stop hitting his brother by giving him a spanking!