1st Edition

A Crisis of Waste? Understanding the Rubbish Society

By Martin O'Brien Copyright 2008
    210 Pages
    by Routledge

    208 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book takes a measured look at the 'crisis of waste' in modern society and it does so historically, sociologically and critically. It tells stories about past and present ‘crises’ of waste and puts them in their appropriate social and industrial contexts. From Charles Dickens to Don DeLillo, from the internal combustion engine to fish fingers, from kitchen grease to the Tour de France this book digs deep into society’s dust piles and emerges with untold treasures of the imagination.

    Introduction: Rubbish Society?

    Chapter 1: Rubbish Histories

    Chapter 2: Rubbish Literatures

    Chapter 3: Rubbish Industries

    Chapter 4: Rubbish Households

    Chapter 5: Rubbish Relationships

    Chapter 6: Rubbish Idealism

    Chapter 7: Rubbish Materialism

    Conclusion: Rubbish Society!


    Martin O’Brien is a sociologist who has spent the last twenty years working on public policy – including health and social policy, criminal justice policy and environmental policy. He is the author (with Sue Penna) of Theorising Welfare: Enlightenment and Modern Society (London: Sage, 1998) and editor of several books, including the most recent Integrating and Articulating Environments: A Challenge for Northern and Southern Europe (Swets & Zeitlinger, 2003) as well as numerous articles on social theory, social history and social policy. He is currently a Reader at the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Central Lancashire, UK.

    "[This] book reads as an ode to rubbish, which seems to have waited two long centuries since the Industrial Revolution to be written. It is a memorable addition to the sociology of waste, with its claims that societies have been fabricated out of waste and waste is the ground upon which they stand. For its literary elegance and profound scholarship, the book is destined to be a classic... Essential."

    - T. Niazi, University of Wisconsin, Choice

    "This is an excellent book. It is well-researched and exceptionally well-written. I particularly like the fact that O'Brien is utterly fearless and critically independent. He writes vigorously and entertainingly and challenges conventional wisdoms at every turn. He knows the literature -- literary, historical, empirical and theoretical -- thoroughly and brings to it an extraordinarily inquiring and critical mind. There have been a few good books on waste, and this one is certainly among the very best of them.... Martin O'Brien has established himself as one of the few sociological authorities on this subject and, on this evidence, he is the very best of them."

    -Christopher Rootes, Professor of Environmental Politics and Political Sociology, University of Kent

    "This is an excellent, well written, scholarly and exciting book -- relevant to policy as well as academia... It does more than merely 'filling a gap' between historical studies of waste and more 'technocratic' and environmental debates -- in effect it sets out a whole new way of conceptualising the constitutive role of rubbish in society and as such its intellectual impact is set to ripple out widely across a range of related debates."

    -Elizabeth Shove, Professor of Sociology, University of Lancaster


    'For its literary elegance and profound scholarship, the book is destined to be a classic.' --T. Niazi, University of Wisconsin

    'Essential. Graduate and undergraduate collections in sociology of waste, environmental studies, cultural studies, and waste management.' -- T. Niazi, University of Wisconsin