One of the biggest ironies of the right-wing trope accusing socialists of wanting “free stuff” is that in reality, the entire capitalist economy would immediately collapse if it couldn’t continue to rely on free stuff. Without free or artificially cheap access to things like natural resources, care work, labor and a whole array of other elements, capitalism could not stay afloat. In fact, the only way that capitalism was ever able to even emerge was through a process of “primitive accumulation” — where things like slavery and colonialism were utilized to extract free labor and resources.
It’s this oft-forgotten history that compelled Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore to write History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet. The book unpacks our modern capitalist world by tracing the fraught history of how seven elements — nature, money, work, care, food, energy and lives — were transformed and reshaped during the emergence of capitalism and up through to the modern day.