Food, Morals and Meaning: The Pleasure and Anxiety of Eating, 2nd Edition (Hardback) book cover

Food, Morals and Meaning

The Pleasure and Anxiety of Eating, 2nd Edition

By John Coveney

© 2006 – Routledge

190 pages

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Hardback: 9780415376204
pub: 2006-05-11
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pub: 2006-09-27
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Following on from the success of the first edition, John Coveney traces our complex relationship with food and eating and our preoccupation with diet, self-discipline and food guilt. Using our current fascination with health and nutrition, he explores why our appetite for food pleasures makes us feel anxious. This up-to-date edition includes an examination of how our current obsession with body size, especially fatness, drives a national and international panic about the obesity ‘epidemic’.

Focusing on how our food anxieties have stemmed from social, political and religious problems in Western history, Food, Morals and Meaning looks at:

  • the ancient Greeks’ preoccupation with eating
  • early Christianity and the conflict between the pleasures of the flesh and spirituality
  • scientific developments in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe and our current knowledge of food
  • the social organization of food in the modern home, based on real interviews
  • the obesity ‘epidemic’ and its association with moral degeneration.

Based on the work of Michel Foucault, this fresh and updated edition explains how a rationalization food choice – so apparent in current programmes on nutrition and health – can be traced through a genealogy of historical social imperatives and moral panics. Food, Morals and Meaning is essential reading for those studying nutrition, public health, sociology of health and illness and sociology of the body.


'A strong contribution to the sociological understanding of food and its relation to social life has been made even stronger in this new edition. Of particular value are Coveney’s additions to his discussions of food morality in the context of Foucaultian notions of governmentality, especially in the new chapter on the governmentality of girth.'- Alex McIntosh, Professor of Sociology and Member, Faculty of Nutrition, Texas A&M University

Understanding the complex juxtapositions of the enjoyment and the pain we derive from food is the core business of John Coveney's fascinating work…This book is a 'must read' for anyone interested in the social meanings of eating. - Dr Karen Campbell, School of Exercise and Nutrition, Deakin University, Australia

In this major contribution to the food sociology literature, John Coveney insightfully applies a Foucaultian analysis to expose the multifarious ways in which the government of parental and child conduct is enacted. This book is highly relevant for those in the fields of childhood nutrition, health promotion, dietetics, and food sociology. - John Germov, The University of Newcastle Co-editor of A Sociology of Food and Nutrition: The Social Appetite (2004)

Table of Contents

Preface to Second Edition Preface 1. Foucault, Discourse, Power and the Subject 2. Governmentality of Modern Nutrition 3. Greeks to the Christians: From Ethics to Guilt 4. Religion and Reason: The Emergence of a Discourse on Nutrition 5. Paupers, Prisoners and Moral Panics 6. The Nutritional Policing of Families 7. Nutrition Landscapes 8. Nutrition Homescapes 9. An Ethnography of Family Food: Subjects of Food Choice 10. The Governmentality of Girth 11. Conclusions Appendix References

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HEALTH & FITNESS / Food Content Guides
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General