Accumulation: The Material Politics of Plastic, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover


The Material Politics of Plastic, 1st Edition

Edited by Jennifer Gabrys, Gay Hawkins, Mike Michael


242 pages | 26 B/W Illus.

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From food punnets to credit cards, plastic facilitates every part of our daily lives. It has become central to processes of contemporary socio-material living. Universalised and abstracted, it is often treated as the passive object of political deliberations, or a problematic material demanding human management. But in what ways might a 'politics of plastics' deal with both its specific manifestation in particular artefacts and events, and its complex dispersed heterogeneity?

Accumulation explores the vitality and complexity of plastic. This interdisciplinary collection focuses on how the presence and recalcitrance of plastic reveals the relational exchanges across human and synthetic materialities. It captures multiplicity by engaging with the processual materialities or plasticity of plastic. Through a series of themed essays on plastic materialities, plastic economies, plastic bodies and new articulations of plastic, the editors and chapter authors examine specific aspects of plastic in action. How are multiple plastic realities enacted? What are their effects?

This book will be of interest to students and scholars of sociology, human and cultural geography, environmental studies, consumption studies, science and technology studies, design, and political theory.


"This is a book on materiality in contemporary life. It deals with an issue that is not new, and the book itself is not hot off the press, actually it was published three years ago. However, Accumulation can be considered an interesting nutshell of the current debate about the materiality and the heterogeneous complexity of society as well as about the strategies we use to investigate and unfold it."

Dario Minervini, University of Naples

Table of Contents

Introduction: From Materiality to Plasticity by Jennifer Gabrys, Gay Hawkins and Mike Michael Part I: Plastic Materialities 1. Plastics, Materials and Dreams of Dematerialization by Bernadette Bensaude Vincent 2. Process and Plasticity: Printing, Prototyping and the Prospects of Plastic by Mike Michael Part II: Plastic Economies 3. Made to Be Wasted: PET and Topologies of Disposability by Gay Hawkins 4. The Material Politics of Vinyl: How the State, Industry and Citizens Created and Transformed West Germany’s Consumer Democracy by Andrea Westermann 5. Paying With Plastic: The Enduring Presence of the Credit Card by Joe Deville Part III: Plastic Bodies 6. The Death and Life of Plastic Surfaces: Mobile Phones by Tom Fisher 7. Reflections of an Unrepentant Plastiphobe: An Essay on Plasticity and the STS Life by Jody A. Roberts 8. Plasticizers: A Twenty-First Century Miasma by Max Liboiron 9. Plastics, the Environment and Human Health by Richard Thompson Part IV: New Articulations 10. Where Does This Stuff Come From? Oil, Plastic and the Distribution of Violence by James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello 11. International Pellet Watch: Studies of the Magnitude and Spatial Variation of Chemical Risks Associated with Environmental Plastics by Shige Takada 12. Plastic and the Work of the Biodegradable by Jennifer Gabrys

About the Editors

Jennifer Gabrys is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Principal Investigator on the ERC-funded project ‘Citizen sensing and environmental practice’.

Gay Hawkins is a Professorial Research Fellow in social and cultural theory and Director of theCentre for Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Mike Michael is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney.

About the Series


Culture, Economy and the Social

This series establishes the importance of innovative contemporary, comparative and historical work on the relations between social, cultural and economic change. It publishes empirically-based research that is theoretically informed, that critically examines the ways in which social, cultural and economic change is framed and made visible, and that is attentive to perspectives that tend to be ignored or side-lined by grand theorising or epochal accounts of social change. The series addresses the diverse manifestations of contemporary capitalism, and considers the various ways in which the `social', `the cultural' and `the economic' are apprehended as tangible sites of value and practice. It is explicitly comparative, publishing books that work across disciplinary perspectives, cross-culturally, or across different historical periods.

We are particularly focused on publishing books in the following areas that fit with the broad remit of the series:

  • Cultural consumption
  • Cultural economy
  • Cities and urban change
  • Materiality, sociality and the post-human
  • Culture and media industries
  • Culture and governance
  • Emerging forms of cultural and economic practice

The series is actively engaged in the analysis of the different theoretical traditions that have contributed to critiques of the `cultural turn'. We are particularly interested in perspectives that engage with Bourdieu, Foucauldian approaches to knowledge and cultural practices, Actor-network approaches, and with those that are associated with issues arising from Deleuze's work around complexity, affect or topology. The series is equally concerned to explore the new agendas emerging from current critiques of the cultural turn: those associated with the descriptive turn for example. Our commitment to interdisciplinarity thus aims at enriching theoretical and methodological discussion, building awareness of the common ground has emerged in the past decade, and thinking through what is at stake in those approaches that resist integration to a common analytical model.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General