Raj Patel has worked for the World Bank and WTO and been tear-gassed on four continents protesting against them. Writer, activist, and academic, he is a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Centre for African Studies, a researcher at the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a fellow at The Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First.
Raj Patel's prophetic food-political Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System (2008) became the book to understand how a global food system was constructed by/for the benefit of a few corporations and to the detriment of billions consigned to either hunger or obesity. In it, and much cited, Patel enlightened us to the fact that a Big Mac should cost 200$ rather then 4$, as Indian researchers found out. There are environmental costs to add, the costs of lost biodiversity, species that are lost through deforestation, of climate change, carbon sequestration, water cycling, fuel and tropical product sources. And, then, there is the additional health costs, that come with a poor diet, cheap food being "cheat" food.
For Patel, we live in a system of "incipient global fascism," and so he wrote on the failure of neoliberal economics in The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy (2010). He critiques the ideology and functioning of the free market, while presenting existing alternatives. He explains the economical crisis and provides a crash course about why prices and value are not the same thing. The emphasis for him is on ideology and behavior, on values instead of data. Patel explains that economics are a rather "new" idea: selling our labor or land has only been around for about 500 years.
Through his work on food, he is associated with the Via Campesina movement, and through his work on urban poverty and resistance with Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Landless Peoples Movement. Other published titles include Promised Land: Competing Visions of Agrarian Reform (edited with Peter Rosset and Michael Courville, 2006), and Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice (with Eric Holt-Giménez, 2009).
Raj Patel is part of the V2_ publication The Politics of the Impure (2010).