After reading Raj Patel’s book The Value of Nothing, the reader can only find herself shocked at the worthlessness of education. Patel depicts a world where educated minds differ passionately about economic theories. The reasons these great minds differ are varied, their arguments reminiscent of those one might hear in religious circles. There are differing professing schools; ways of using semantics; goals; inclinations; political, class, elitist and feminist arguments. Patel succeeds in showing the fallacies of many of these ideas, but – Patel’s Buddhist principles and idealism aside - the reader is left with the impression that even this well-reasoned and insightful book is not going to change the world.
In a very dense, conversational
volume, Patel gives an overview of history that challenges many of the concepts and formulae economists hold almost religiously dear. The Value of Nothing is at once a history book, the political treatise of an idealist, and a survey of economic theories, a prophetic revisioning. At 250 pages
(and even replete with footnotes), it is a relatively small book. Much is
contained in the small space, and although the concepts, histories and definitions flow by at a dizzying rate, the
whole is easily comprehensible.
There’s a passion to what Patel has to tell us, and its conversational tone carries the passion into a call to action,
or to many calls to action. While the book is not scattered, once Patel shows that economics is connected to everything
- oppression, civil rights, feminism, community property, etc. – the reader has a smattering of changes both personal and social to put into effect, adopting a Buddhist view of the world being one of the smallest.
This timely book shows the underlying reasons for the global job situation in
an informative and impassioned way. Patel’s theme is comprehensive and global but not unclear or muddy... and of course, many of those for whom it is intended will not read it. Still, it is one of the rare books that makes economics accessible and easily understood to the layperson. I highly recommend it.