Second Edition now available!

Society and the Environment: Pragmatic Solutions to Ecological Issues 

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.

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 (FHSI) in an original attempt to better measure and quantify the affording qualities of food systems. A FHSI score is calculated for 126 countries based on indicators of objective and subjective well-being, nutrition, ecological sustainability, food dependency, and food system market concentration. The final FHSI ranking produces many counter-intuitive results. Why, for example, does Costa Rica top the ranking, while the United States comes in at number fifty-five?

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 that food security is more than just about issues surrounding production. For example, space is made in this chapter to address the important question of, "What can we eat if not GDP?" We need, the author 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.

"Cheaponomics is a revelation! "

Clive Hamilton, author of Affluenza 

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. 

Advance Praise... 

"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 titledReclaiming 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

"Carolan challenges the prevailing assumptions about food security and, in so doing, recovers the true spirit of the term by reconnecting it to human welfare. Rich in detail, broad in scope, and thoroughly engaging to read. Genuinely refreshing scholarship" –Colin Sage, University College Cork, Republic of Ireland

"A brilliant, bold and path-breaking intervention into world food politics. This easy to read book changes how we must think about and work on food security. The conceptual and analytic tool of the Food and Human Security Index compellingly brings social sense back into the food security debate. A powerful, empirically grounded, thought experiment directed at enacting different human and food futures." – Richard Le Heron, 
University of Auckland 

"The book 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  

"...brilliant, bold and path breaking..."  

Richard Le Heron, University of Auckland

Advance Praise... 

“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

“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

“Unique for its matter-of-fact approach, Society 
and the Environment covers all the important topics in a well-organized way. Students will be drawn to its interdisciplinarity, its accessibility, and its lack of social science jargon.”—Shaunna Scott, University of Kentucky

“In this very well-organized and thought-provoking book, Carolan weaves together the macro and the micro, reflecting the truly complex nature of human/environment interaction. He manages to articulate to the reader that environmental issues are never black and white but rather shades of gray.” —Jesse T. Weiss, University of the Ozarks

“A solid, timely, and well-written book.” —Susan G. Clark, Yale University

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.

Advance Praise

"A solid, timely and well-written book"  

Susan G. Clark, Yale University 

"What Michael Carolan presents is a more fundamental challenge to how we define cheap, and how we understand food. [...] By avoiding either/or logic and setting cheap food in broad context, Michael Carolan encourages a more nuanced view, which can only result in more reasoned and hence more successful approaches to improving food systems" – Hannah Pitt, Agriculture and Human Values 

'This is a terrific book about a hugely important subject - actually a whole raft of hugely important subjects. At its core is the global problem of food insecurity ... Although focusing on the US market, his scope is global, and he only uses the US as a case study to show that, looking at the biosphere as a whole, cheap food today may mean expensive food tomorrow.' – Alan Maryon-Davis, Public Health Today

'This is an engaging, brilliantly argued and very well-written text. It is among the best books about agri-food issues I've read in recent years. Its structure is logical, its arguments are coherent and practical, and it draws on a huge, diverse and up-to-date literature.' - Geoffrey Lawrence, Professor of Sociology, University of Queensland, Australia

'Michael Carolan’s book is an arresting account of the invisibilized costs of our food system. His comprehensive detailing of the political, cultural, ecological and health impacts of industrial food clearly reveals the artificial economy of pricing, demonstrating the multiple relations of food beyond its appearance as simply a commodity.' - Philip McMichael, Cornell University, US

'The Real Cost of Cheap Food is a must read for anyone truly interested in understanding our impaired food system and what we need to do to redesign it. As Carolan points out so brilliantly, the problem with cheap food isn't just about the "externalities" we ignore, but it lies at the heart of how our food system is designed and requires that we take a fresh, comprehensive look at the problems inherent in our globalized food system. Those problems include the poverty and the potential civic unrest and conflicts it foreshadows, its implications for human and environmental health, and what it all portends for community well-being and the need for cultural transformation. This is one of the most comprehensive treatments of this important issue available today and can serve as a guide for everyone interested in redesigning our food system for the decades ahead.' - Frederick Kirschenmann, Iowa State University.

"...a pleasure to read..."  


Advance Praise... 

'Carolan brilliantly demonstrates that bodies tuned to Global Food can, through shared practice in new spaces such as urban chickens, seed exchanges, and community supported agriculture, 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

'Michael Carolan provides a timely analysis of the changes that creep into our experiences with alterations of food production and distribution. Combining interviews and reminiscences with perspectives from sociology, history, and philosophy, this book explores what is being lost as food production loses its singular locations, as well as what can be regained with a greater appreciation of “embodied knowledge”.' - Carolyn Korsmeyer, SUNY, Buffalo, 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

'Michael Carolan creatively advances debate in the alternative food literature on the experiential politics of eating and growing food. Building on an impressive synthesis of the latest theoretical developments in sociology and geography… clearly and concisely written…' - Environment and Planning A

'… I found Carolan's prose clear and brisk; his introduction and body chapters incorporate a real sense of the field of food sociology for those in other disciplines or in other areas of food studies. His interview subjects are frank about their hopes for local and sustainable agriculture; their delight in the communities they have joined and the practices those communities engage in; and their anger and frustrations at inhumane factory farming practices, food contamination, and artificially low food prices. It is a pleasure to read about these specific cultural practices for achieving sustainable food systems.' - Gastronomica

'Embodied Food Politics is a well-signposted, engaging and accessible food-led detour across some of the philosophical and critical terrain of sociology and cultural geography. Carolan writes briskly and weaves his empirical research with a diverse range of feminist, phenomenological and food theories…' - Social and Cultural Geography

" once scholarly and refreshingly clear.."  

Adrian MacKenzie, Lancaster University, UK

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.

​​​​​Author · Scholar · ​Public Speaker

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 a more ethical way to eat.



Carmen Bain, Iowa State University

Advance Praise

The Food Sharing Revolution 

How Start-Ups, Pop-Ups, and Co-Ops are Changing the Way We Eat

"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.

"This highly recommended text is an accessible, lively and up-to-date introduction to the sociological imagination and agrifood studies, filling the gap between the sociologies of food production and food consumption."
 –Sally Foster, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK.

"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.

"Clearly written, but theoretically sophisticated, Carolan uses a wealth of published research to present a more critical ‘sociological’ analysis of contemporary food system issues that contrasts sharply with the mainstream narratives that dominate in the agricultural and food sciences. The examples are authoritative, fresh, provocative, and speak directly to current social and political debates on farm and food issues." 
–Douglas Jackson-Smith, Professor of Sociology, Utah State University, USA. 

"This is critical sociology at its best. In this introductory text, Carolan goes behind the scenes of the global agrifood industry to examine the complex socio-economic and political arrangements that shape food production and consumption. Presenting the latest findings from internationally-based research, the book highlights the structural causes of present-day concerns about hunger, obesity, rural social disadvantage, farmer dispossession, supermarket power and environmental degradation. Oppositional movements challenging the current system of food provision are also discussed in detail.  Carolan is one of the foremost writers in contemporary agrifood studies and he has fashioned a book that provides an up-to-date, informative and highly readable overview of the global agrifood system. The book will have immediate appeal to students, policy-makers and all those concerned about the future of food and farming." – Geoffrey Lawrence, Professor of Sociology, Head of Sociology and Criminology and Food Security Focal Area Co-Leader at the Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland, Australia. 

"This volume is the perfect starting point for students and others interested in food and its background. Very accessible, this volume develops a sociological view on food from its appearance on the dinner table to its origin in the field and from the life-world of the farmer to global food security. It does so by also engaging with vital debates on (the future of) food." – Peter Oosterveer, Associate professor in the Environmental Policy Group at Wageningen University, The Netherlands.​

Copyright 2018 | Michael Carolan

"This is a terrific book..."  

Alan Maryon-Davis, Public Health Today

Michael Carolan

The Real Cost of Cheap Food
Second Edition
No One Eats Alone 
Food as a Social Enterprise

Decentering Biotechnology: Assemblages Built and Assemblages Masked

A theoretically sophisticated analysis of the nature of objects and the role of technology as a form of life which 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, science and technology studies.

Second Edition now available!

The Sociology of Food and Agriculture 

As interest has increased in topics such as the globalization of the agrifood system, food security, and food safety, the subjects of food and agriculture are making their way into a growing number of courses in disciplines within the social sciences and the humanities, like sociology and food studies. This book is an introductory textbook aimed at undergraduate students, and is suitable for those with little or no background in sociology. 

The author starts by looking at the recent development of agriculture under capitalism and neo-liberal regimes and the transformation of farming from a small-scale, family-run business to a globalized system. The consequent changes in rural employment and role of multinationals in controlling markets are described. Topics such as the global hunger and obesity challenges, GM foods, and international trade and subsidies are assessed as part of the world food economy. The second section of the book focuses on community impacts, food and culture, and diversity. Later chapters examine topics such as food security, alternative and social movements, food sovereignty, local versus global, and fair trade. All chapters include learning objectives and recommendations for further reading to aid student learning.

The Real Cost of Cheap Food

This challenging but accessible book critically examines the dominant food regime on its own terms, by seriously asking whether we can afford cheap food and exploring what exactly cheap food affords us. Detailing the numerous ways that food has become reduced to a state, such as a price per ounce, combination of nutrients, yield per acre, or calories, the book argues for a more contextual understanding of food when debating its affordability.

The author makes a compelling case for 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. Thus meat production and consumption are inefficient uses of resources and contribute to climate change; the use of pesticides in industrial-scale agriculture may produce cheap food, but there are hidden costs to environmental protection, human health and biodiversity conservation. Many of these costs will be paid for by future generations – cheap food today may mean expensive food tomorrow. By systematically assessing these costs the book delves into issues related, but not limited, to international development, national security, health care, industrial meat production, organic farming, corporate responsibility, government subsidies, food aid and global commodity markets. The book concludes by suggesting ways forward, going beyond the usual solutions such as farmers markets, community supported agriculture, and community gardens. Exploding the myth of cheap food requires we have at our disposal a host of practices and policies. Some of those proposed and explored include microloans, subsidies for consumers, vertical agriculture, and the democratization of subsidies for producers.

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.

Advance Praise... 

'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

'Decentering Biotechnology: Assemblages Built and Assemblages Masked offers an at once scholarly and refreshingly clear account of a core component of contemporary technoscientific imaginaries - biotechnology. Theoretically sophisticated, and carefully historically documented, Carolan incisively highlights some of the key legal, social, economic and scientific issues of the 21st century.' --Adrian Mackenzie, Lancaster University, UK​