Professor Carolan provides a masterful overview of past and recent developments in the sociology of food and agriculture. This book will serve as a useful reference for advanced scholars but, perhaps more importantly, is also a necessary and very accessible text for undergraduate students and other novices to the subject.
-Leland Glenna, Associate Professor of Rural Sociology and Science, Technology, and Society, Pennsylvania State University, USA
(Reclaiming Food Security) is powerful enough to resonate long after completing it. Since finishing the book, I recall various graphs and case studies while grocery shopping, and I reconsider my own purchases to try to waste less food. An academic text with the potential to spark debate about major social issues and to impact readers' private decision-making is surely a triumph.
-Journal of International Affairs
Cheaponomics is a revelation! It uncovers the devastating truth behind the modern economy of 'bargains.' It turns out to be like a game of global Whack-a-Mole. ... Carolan finishes by describing a new game that would make 99% of us better off.
-Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University, Canberra, Australia
Decentering Biotechnology is a lucid and timely book. It illuminates how the biotechnology regime exercises power to create new avenues for profit through the commodification of nature. Anyone interested in understanding how patents are employed in opposition to public welfare needs to read this book.
-Brett Clark, North Carolina State University, USA
Michael Carolan’s Embodied Food Politics explains a lot. It goes deeper than the current impassioned food politics and reaches the core of where the passion actually emanates from, or should. Whether it’s heritage seeds or heritage breeds, he makes the point that behind these are individuals and communities who remember and have cared - people who would feel incomplete without the throbbing connections to the past and to one’s fellows that these seeds and breeds allow and signify. It’s all in the dwelling, and this book urges us to begin.
-Virginia D. Nazarea, University of Georgia, USA
No One Eats Alone: Food as a Social Enterprise
In today’s fast-paced, fast food world, everyone seems to be eating alone, all the time — whether it’s at their desks or in the car. Even those who find time for a family meal are cut off from the people who grew, harvested, distributed, marketed, and sold the foods on their table. Few ever break bread with anyone outside their own socioeconomic group. So why does Michael Carolan say that no one eats alone? Because all of us are affected by the other people in our vast foodscape. We can no longer afford to ignore these human connections as we struggle with dire problems like hunger, obesity, toxic pesticides, antibiotic resistance, depressed rural economies, and low-wage labor.
Carolan argues that building community is the key to healthy, equitable, and sustainable food. While researching No One Eats Alone, he interviewed more than 250 individuals, from flavorists to Fortune 500 executives, politicians to feedlot managers, low-income families to crop scientists, who play a role in the life of food. Advertising consultants told him of efforts to distance eaters and producers—most food firms don’t want their customers thinking about farm laborers or the people living downstream of processing plants. But he also found stories of people getting together to change their relationship to food and to each other.
Carolan contends that real change only happens when we start acting like citizens first and consumers second. No One Eats Alone is a book about becoming better food citizens.
An engaging, well-organized, and comprehensive treatment of the core issues in environmental sociology. Carolan’s conversational style and pragmatic focus will help students connect with the subject rather than become depressed.
-Richard York, University of Oregon
"Embodied Food Politics suggests many possible trajectories for further research, and a promising pathway towards the ... overcoming of the analytical divisions between consumption and production."
-Anna Krzywoszynska, Faculty of Social Sciences Research Fellow, The University of Sheffield, England
The Real Cost of Cheap Food, 2nd Edition
This thought-provoking but accessible book critically examines the dominant food regime on its own terms by seriously asking whether we can afford cheap food and by exploring what exactly cheap food affords us. Detailing the numerous ways our understanding of food has narrowed, such as its price per ounce, combination of nutrients, yield per acre, or calories, the book argues for a more contextual view of food when debating its affordability. The first edition, published in 2011, was widely praised for its innovative approach and readability.
In this new edition, author Michael Carolan brings all data and citations fully up to date. Increased coverage is given to many topics, including climate change, aquaculture, financialization, BRICS countries, food-based social movements, gender and ethnic issues, critical public health, and land succession. There is also greater discussion about successful cases of social change throughout all chapters, by including new text boxes that emphasize these more positive messages.
The author shows why today's global food system produces just the opposite of what it promises. The food produced under this regime is in fact exceedingly expensive. Many of these costs will be paid for in other ways or by future generations, and cheap food today may mean expensive food tomorrow. By systematically assessing these costs, the book delves into issues related to international development, national security, healthcare, and more. It is shown that exploding the myth of cheap food requires we have at our disposal a host of practices and policies.
Carolan brilliantly demonstrates that bodies tuned to Global Food can ... create tacit knowledge for innovation in food systems that more closely link production with consumption. He supports his reflexive deep descriptive case studies by a wide-ranging and well-chosen literature that he both critiques and takes to the next level.
-Cornelia Butler Flora, Iowa State University, USA
The Sociology of Food and Agriculture, 3rd Edition
Thoroughly revised and updated, the third edition of The Sociology of Food and Agriculture provides a cutting-edge, comprehensive introduction to the study of food and society.
The book begins by examining the food economy, with chapters focusing on foodscapes, the financialization of food, and a new chapter dedicated to food and nutrition (in)security. In Part II, the book addresses community and culture. While some books only look at the interrelationships between food and culture, this section problematizes the food system from the standpoint of marginalized bodies. It contains chapters focusing on agricultural and food labor and the peasantries, topics which are often overlooked, and gender, ethnicity, and poverty. Part III examines food and the environment, with chapters addressing important topics such as agro-ecosystems, food justice, sustainable food, and agriculture and food sovereignty. The final part focuses on food futures and includes a new chapter on sustainable diets and ethical consumption. The book concludes by showcasing how we can rethink food production and consumption in a way that can help heal social, political, and cultural divisions. All chapters draw on international case studies and include learning objectives, suggested discussion questions, and recommendations for further reading to aid student learning.
TheSociology of Food and Agriculture is perfect for students of food studies, including food justice, food and nutrition security, sustainable diets, food sovereignty, environmental sociology, agriculture, and cultural studies.
Never again should we use the phrase ‘food security’ — in the classroom, in the literature, or at the dinner table — without invoking Carolan’s meaning in his aptly titled Reclaiming Food Security: not just simply meeting calorie needs but fostering well-being in current and future generations.
-Christine M. Porter, Assistant Professor of Public Health and Food Dignity Project Director, University of Wyoming
Decentering Biotechnology: Assemblages Built and Assemblages Masked
Decentering Biotechnology explores the nature of technology, objects and patent law. Investigating the patenting of organic life and the manner in which artifacts of biotechnology are given their objective appearance, Carolan details the enrollment mechanisms that give biotechnology its momentum. Drawing on legal judgements and case studies, this fascinating book examines the nature of objectification — as a thought and a thing — without which biotechnology, as it is done today, would not be possible.
Unable to reject biotechnology per se, recognizing that such a rejection would essentialize the very objective categories shown to be manufactured, Carolan ultimately argues for doing biotechnology differently. A theoretically sophisticated analysis of the nature of objects and the role of technology as a form of life that shapes the social landscape, Decentering Biotechnology engages with questions of power, globalization, development, resistance, exclusion, and participation that arise from treating biological objects differently from conventional property forms. As such, it will appeal to social theorists, sociologists, and philosophers, as well as scholars of law and science and technology studies.
Carolan masterfully presents complex environmental problems (and their solutions) in a concise and lucid manner that will hold students’ attention. The standard framework for considering issues, the inclusion of exceptional case studies and ethical questions that will create a point of departure for many good class discussions, and the consideration of applied and practical efforts to protect the environment and manage resources all contribute to making this an excellent text and the backbone for any course in environmental sociology. Hats off to the author!
-Stephanie McSpirit, Eastern Kentucky University
Cheaponomics: The High Cost of Low Prices
Do you really think you are getting a good deal when given that free mobile phone for switching service providers, if a multinational retailer undercuts its competitors or by the fact that food is relatively cheaper today in many countries than ever before?
Think again! As Michael Carolan clearly shows in this compelling book, cheapness is an illusion. The real cost of low prices is alarmingly high. It is shown for example that citizens are frequently subsidising low prices through welfare support to poorly-paid workers in their own country, or relying on the exploitation of workers in poor countries for cheap goods. Environmental pollution may not be costed into goods and services, but is paid for indirectly by people living away from its source or by future generations. Even with private cars, when the total costs of this form of mobility are tallied it proves to be an astronomically expensive model of transportation. All of these costs need to be accounted for.
The author captures these issues by the concept of "cheaponomics". The key point is that costs and risks are socialised: we all pay for cheapness, but not at the point of purchase. Drawing on a wide range of examples and issues from over-consumption and waste to over-work, unemployment, inequality, and the depersonalising of communities, it is convincingly shown that cheapness can no longer be seen as such a bargain. Instead we need to refocus for a better sense of well-being, social justice and a balanced approach to prosperity.
Embodied Food Politics
While the phenomenon of embodied knowledge is becoming integrated into the social sciences, critical geography, and feminist research agendas it continues to be largely ignored by agro-food scholars. This book helps fill this void by inserting into the food literature living, feeling, sensing bodies and will be of interest to food scholars as well as those more generally interested in the phenomenon known as embodied realism.
This book is about the materializations of food politics; "materializations," in this case, referring to our embodied, sensuous, and physical connectivities to food production and consumption. It is through these materializations, argues Carolan, that we know food (and the food system more generally), others, and ourselves.
Reclaiming Food Security
In this challenging work, the author argues that the goal of any food system should not simply be to provide the cheapest calories possible. A secure food system is one that affords people and nations – in both the present and future – the capabilities to prosper and lead long, happy, and healthy lives. For a variety of reasons, food security has come to be synonymous with cheap calorie security. On this measure, the last fifty years have been a remarkable success.
But the author shows that these cheap calories have also come at great cost to the environment, individual, and societal well-being, human health, and the food sovereignty of nations. The book begins by reviewing the concept of food security, particularly as it has been enacted within agrifood and international policy over the last century. After proposing a coherent definition, the author then assesses empirically whether these policies have actually made us and the environment any better off. One of the many ways the author accomplishes this task is by introducing the Food and Human Security Index in an original attempt to better measure and quantify the affording qualities of food systems. A FHSI score is calculated for 126 countries. The final FHSI ranking produces many counter-intuitive results.
The author concludes by arguing for the need to reclaim food security by returning the concept to something akin to its original spirit, identified earlier in the book. While starting at the level of the farm, the concluding chapter focuses most of its attention beyond the farm gate, recognizing food security is more than just issues surrounding production. We need, Carolan contends, a thoroughly sociological rendering of food security: a position that views food security not as a thing – or an end in itself – but as a process that ought to make people and the planet better off.
Author · Scholar · Public Speaker
Finally! Amidst the burgeoning literature on agrifood studies a sociological perspective has been sorely missing. In particular, Carolan’s book will prove invaluable to those of us who teach in this area and have been looking for a way to weave in sociological theory to examine the wide array of food and agricultural topics.
-Carmen Bain, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Iowa State University, USA
NEW RELEASE — A Decent Meal: Building Empathy in a Divided America
READING GROUP CHOICE NOVEMBER EDITORS' PICK: While America’s new reality appears to be a deeply divided body politically, many are wondering how we can or should move forward from here. Can political or social divisiveness be healed? Is empathy among people with very little ideological common ground possible? In A Decent Meal, Michael Carolan finds answers to these fundamental questions in a series of unexpected places: around our dinner tables, along the aisles of our supermarkets, and in the fields growing our fruits and vegetables. What is more common, after all, than the simple fact that we all need to eat?
This book is the result of Carolan’s career-long efforts to create simulations in which food could be used to build empathy among even the staunchest of rivals. Though most people assume that presenting facts will sway the way the public behaves, time and again this assumption is proven wrong as we all selectively accept the facts that support our beliefs. Drawing on the data he has collected, Carolan argues that we must, instead, find places and practices where incivility—or worse, hate—is suspended and leverage those opportunities into tools for building social cohesion. Each chapter follows the individuals who participated in a given experiment, ranging from strawberry-picking to attempting to subsist on SNAP benefits to attending a dinner of wild game. By engaging with participants before, during, and after, Carolan is able to document their remarkable shifts in attitude and opinion. Though this book is framed around food, it is really about the spaces opened up by our need for food, in our communities, in our homes, and, ultimately, in our minds.
Unlike many easy-fix food books touting local food as the answer, No One Eats Alone tackles both food and health from a systemic perspective. Its conclusions are likely to challenge eaters on all sides of the food conversation. ... No One Eats Alone is a singular specimen: a well-researched, thoughtful, and ultimately optimistic book on a popular subject that presents, and successfully defends, the point of view it expresses.
-Anna Call, Foreword Reviews
(A Decent Meal) is an important and timely book that balances the voices of the right and left in a conversation about community and civility. An absolute pleasure to read, it illuminates encounters in the heartland of America and the pursuit of a decent meal. Not sure what a decent meal looks like? Michael Carolan shows us, and in the process also shows us what it looks like for Americans to come together in common cause.
-Erik Schneiderhan, University of Toronto
Professor Carolan presents a comprehensive and compelling analysis of the forces shaping current food and farming trajectories, the winners and losers in the food system, the options available to those wanting to challenge and, ultimately, to overhaul today’s unsustainable global foodscape.
-Geoffrey Lawrence, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Queensland, Australia
Society and the Environment: Pragmatic Solutions to Ecological Issues, 2nd Edition
Talking about global environmental issues need not be an exercise in gloom, doom, and individual sacrifice — as Michael Carolan ably demonstrates in this introduction to environmental sociology.
Society and the Environment examines today’s environmental controversies within a socio-organizational context. After outlining the contours of “pragmatic environmentalism,” Carolan explores the material world: air, water, biodiversity, and trash. He considers the pressures that exist where ecology and society collide, such as population growth and its associated increased demands for food and energy. Finally, he drills into the social/structural dynamics—including political economy and the international legal system—that create ongoing momentum for environmental ills.
This interdisciplinary text features a three-part structure in each chapter that covers “fast facts” about the issue at hand, examines its wide-ranging implications, and offers pragmatic consideration of possible real-world solutions. Bolstering the analysis, a variety of boxes highlight relevant case studies as well as the value judgments which lurk everywhere in talk about environmental phenomena. Discussion questions and key terms enhance the text’s usefulness, making Society and the Environment the perfect learning tool for courses on environmental sociology.
A critically important, insightful and documented study of the economics of the food industry from field to plate, The Foodsharing Revolution is an extraordinary and groundbreaking study. ... Highly recommended.
-Midwest Book Review
The Food Sharing Revolution: How Start-Ups, Pop-Ups, and Co-Ops are Changing the Way We Eat
Marvin is a contract hog farmer in Iowa. He owns his land, his tractor, and his animal crates. He has seen profits drop steadily for the last twenty years and feels trapped. Josh is a dairy farmer on a cooperative in Massachusetts. He doesn’t own his cows, his land, or even all of his equipment. Josh has a healthy income and feels like he’s made it.
In The Food Sharing Revolution, Michael Carolan tells the stories of traditional producers like Marvin, who are being squeezed by big agribusiness, and entrepreneurs like Josh, who are bucking the corporate food system. The difference is that Josh has escaped the burdens of individual ownership and is tapping into the sharing economy. Josh and many others are sharing tractors, seeds, kitchen space, their homes, and their cultures. They are business owners like Dorothy, who opened her bakery with the help of a no-interest crowd-sourced loan. They are chefs like Camilla, who introduces diners to her native Colombian cuisine through peer-to-peer meal sharing. Their success is not only good for aspiring producers but for everyone who wants an alternative to monocrops and processed foods.
The key to successful sharing, Carolan shows, is actually sharing. He warns that food, just like taxis or hotels, can be co-opted by moneyed interests. But when collaboration is genuine, the sharing economy can offer both producers and eaters freedom, even sovereignty. The result is a healthier, more sustainable, and more ethical way to eat.
"... at once scholarly and refreshingly clear ..."
-Adrian MacKenzie, Lancaster University, UK