[Marxism] A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri May 31 18:20:28 MDT 2019

Your first reaction to a book titled A History of the World in Seven 
Cheap Things that consists of 312 pages is to wonder if it is the first 
in a series of volumes since a single volume hardly seems capable of 
packing in everything from Ancient Egypt to the 2007 financial crisis. 
Yet, oddly enough, it does an excellent job by using a singular 
perspective, namely how “cheapness” has become the sine qua non for 
class society’s dubious advances over millennia.

Co-authors Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore are exponents of what they call 
world-ecology. While I am not familiar with Patel’s work, I have been 
reading Moore ever since he was a graduate student and posting to the 
World Systems Network, a defunct mailing list that was home to scholars 
like Immanuel Wallerstein and Andre Gunder Frank. World systems theory 
always made a lot of sense to me since it was premised on the idea that 
Europe was responsible for what Frank called the development of 
underdevelopment in Asia, Africa and Latin America. What Moore 
contributed to this theory was the ecological dimension. Colonialism 
involved massive changes to nature that were universally destructive 
even though they helped to make cheap commodities available to the 


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