Author of the week: Raj Patel

Patel's new book, The Value of Nothing, has a messianic theme: It argues that we must abandon our appetite for perpetual economic growth or face extinction.

Raj Patel may spend the rest of his life trying to convince some people that he is not a messiah, said Scott James in The New York Times. A little over a month ago, the London-born activist began receiving e-mails from members of Share International, a New Age

religious sect, who had long been taught that their messiah would be a dark-skinned former resident of London. In mid-January, the group’s leader, Scottish painter Benjamin Creme, announced a further revelation: that this still-unidentified man had recently appeared on television. A few followers noted that Patel had just been a guest on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, flogging his recent book The Value of Nothing. Patel quickly denied the deity rumors. “It’s absurd to be put in this position when I’m just some bloke,” he says.

Well, he’s not just any bloke, said Mick Brown in the London Daily Telegraph. Patel is a brilliant academic, educated at Oxford, Cornell, and the London School of Economics. His new book’s message also has a messianic theme: It argues that we must abandon our appetite for perpetual economic growth or face extinction. Patel admits he was “incredibly flattered, just for an instant,” to learn that any group considered his ideas heaven-sent. Then he met a 24-year-old follower of Share International who spent $990 to fly with his father to one of Patel’s book events in San Francisco. “It broke my heart,” Patel says. “They’d flown all the way from Detroit.”

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