Raj Patel

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Raj Patel
Raj Patel.jpg
Born1972 (age 47–48)[1]
OccupationEconomist, writer
NationalityBritish, person of Indian origin
EducationUniversity of Oxford, London School of Economics, Cornell University[2]
Notable worksThe Value of Nothing
Stuffed and Starved

Rajeev[2] "Raj" Patel (born 1972) is a British Indian American academic, journalist, activist and writer[3] who has lived and worked in Zimbabwe, South Africa and the United States for extended periods. He has been referred to as "the rock star of social justice writing."[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Born to a mother from Kenya and a father from Fiji,[5][6][7] he grew up in Golders Green in north-west London where his family ran a corner shop.[8]

Patel received a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), from Oxford, and a master's degree from the London School of Economics, and gained his PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University in 2002.[3][9]

As part of his academic training, Patel worked at the World Bank, World Trade Organization and the United Nations.[3] He has since become an outspoken public critic of all of these organisations, and claims to have been tear-gassed on four continents protesting against his former employers.[3][5][10]


Patel is an educator and academic. He has written articles and books. He is possibly best known for his 2008 book, Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System.[11] In 2009, he published The Value of Nothing[12] which was on The New York Times best-seller list during February 2010.[13][14] In 2017, he published, with co-author Jason W. Moore, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things (University of California Press).

He has been a visiting scholar at Yale University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Texas at Austin. Patel is listed as a Research Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs of the University of Texas at Austin.[2]


Raj Patel (r) confronts Glen Nayager of the South African Police at an Abahlali baseMjondolo protest in Durban

Patel was one of many organizers in the 1999 protests in Seattle, Washington, and has organised in support of food sovereignty.[15] More recently he has  resided and worked extensively in Zimbabwe and in South Africa. He was refused a visa extension by the Mugabe regime for his political involvement with the pro-democracy movement. He is associated through his work on food with the Via Campesina movement, and through his work on urban poverty and resistance with Abahlali baseMjondolo[16] and the Landless Peoples Movement.[7]

Patel has written a number of criticisms of various aspects of the policies and research methods of the World Bank[17][18] and was a co-editor, with Christopher Brooke, of the online leftist webzine The Voice of the Turtle.

Film appearances[edit]

In 2012, he appeared in the National Film Board of Canada documentary Payback, based on Margaret Atwood's Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.[19] He appears in the documentary film A Place at the Table which opened in the US on 1 March 2013.[20]

Honours and awards[edit]

In 2007 he was invited to give the keynote address at the University of Abahlali baseMjondolo graduation ceremony. He administers the organisation's website.[21] In 2008 he was asked to testify on the global food crisis before the House Financial Services Committee in the USA.[3] In 2009 he joined the advisory board of Corporate Accountability International's Value the Meal campaign.[22]

In January 2010 some adherents of Share International, following an announcement by Benjamin Creme, concluded that Patel could be the Maitreya.[23] Patel denied being the Maitreya.[23]

Political views[edit]

Patel is a Libertarian Socialist and has described himself as "someone who has very strong anarchist sympathies."[24] In his book The Value of Nothing he praised the grassroots participatory democracy practised in the Zapatista Councils of Good Government in southern Mexico and has advocated similar decentralist models of economic democracy and confederal administration as templates to go by for social justice movements in the global north. He has also described himself as "not a communist [or socialist] ... just open minded".[25][26]


What we should be a little taken aback by is, not that corporations are miscreants, but that there are markets in food at all. Why are there markets in food? Why is there a global market in anything? I mean global markets in food are very weird.

— Raj Patel, speaking about the global food economy at Marquette University[27]

Personal life[edit]

Patel became a US citizen on 7 January 2010.[28][29]

In an interview with The New Yorker's Lauren Collins, he considers himself an atheist Hindu.[30]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b James, Scott (4 February 2010). "In Internet Era, an Unwilling Lord for New Age Followers". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Rajeev Patel". The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Meet Raj". rajpatel.org. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  4. ^ Buccus, Imraan (23 March 2011). "World Class Intellectual Engagement". The Mercury.
  5. ^ a b "Interview with Raj Patel". The New York Times blog. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  6. ^ A Big Think Interview With Raj Patel From Junior Capitalist to Social Activist (Retrieved on 8 February 2010.)
  7. ^ a b About himself at 21 minuti (Retrieved on 9 February 2010.)
  8. ^ Johnson, Bobbie (19 March 2010). "I'm not the messiah, says food activist – but his many worshippers do not believe him". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2010.
  9. ^ Raj about his education (Retrieved on 8 February 2010.)
  10. ^ Citizine Archived 29 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine (Retrieved on 8 February 2010.)
  11. ^ Patel, Raj (2008). Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Melville House Publishing. ISBN 978-1-933633-49-7.
  12. ^ Patel, Raj (2010). The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy. Picador. ISBN 978-0-312-42924-9.
  13. ^ New York Times best-seller (nonfiction) (Retrieved on 1 March 2010.)
  14. ^ New York Times best-seller (business) (Retrieved on 1 March 2010.)
  15. ^ Patel, Raj (21 November 2009). "Speech at 21 minuti". Milan. Retrieved 20 March 2019 – via YouTube.
  16. ^ "The Politics of Starving: An Interview with Raj Patel". Upping the Anti. 2010.
  17. ^ Patel, Raj (2008). "The world bank and agriculture: A critical review at World bank's world development report" (PDF). rajpatel.info. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  18. ^ Patel, Raj. "Faulty Shades of Green: The World Bank Dissembles the Environment" (PDF). rajpatel.info. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  19. ^ Fulton, Ben (27 January 2012). "Sundance: A documentary about debt offers a big 'Payback'". Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on 24 January 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  20. ^ Raj Patel on IMDb
  21. ^ Patel, Raj (10 June 2010). "Off-Side at the World Cup". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  22. ^ "Value the Meal Advisory Board". stopcorporateabuse.org. Archived from the original on 6 April 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  23. ^ a b James, Scott (4 February 2010). "In Internet Era, an Unwilling Lord for New Age Followers". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  24. ^ Johnson, Bobbie (19 March 2010). "I'm not the messiah, says food activist – but his many worshippers do not believe him". The Guardian. London.
  25. ^ Patel, Raj (12 January 2010). "A Big Think Interview With Raj Patel". Big Think. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  26. ^ Patel, Raj (25 January 2010). "Raj Patel". Tavis Smiley. KCET. Archived from the original on 28 March 2010 – via PBS.org. Me, I'm not a socialist, I'm just open-minded. But I think that we need to look at solutions that have happened in the past for us adequately to be able to come up with better ideas for the future, because this one, the ideas we have right now, really aren't working.
  27. ^ Patel, Raj. "About global food economy". Marquette University. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  28. ^ Raj Patel blog (Retrieved on 10 February 2010.)
  29. ^ "Raj Patel". Colbert Report. Retrieved 8 February 2010 – via colbertnation.com.
  30. ^ Collins, Lauren (29 November 2010). "Are you the Messiah?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 29 July 2012. Patel grew up a "God-fearing Hindu," but now calls himself an "atheist Hindu."

External links[edit]