The Sociology of Food and Agriculture (Paperback) book cover

The Sociology of Food and Agriculture

By Michael Carolan

© 2012 – Routledge

322 pages | 41 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9780415698580
pub: 2012-03-12
Hardback: 9780415698511
pub: 2012-03-12
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203136799
pub: 2012-03-15
from $48.95

FREE Standard Shipping!
Look Inside e–Inspection Copy


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.


"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.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Global Food Economy 2. The Changing Structure of Agriculture: Theoretical Debates and Empirical Trends 3. Understanding the Food System: Past, Present and Future. 4. Malnutrition: Hidden and Visible Part 2: Community, Culture and Knowledge 5. Community, Labor, and Peasantries 6. Food and Culture 7. Agrobiocultural Diversity and Knowledge Transfer Part 3: Food Security and the Environment 8. How Much is Enough? 9. Agro-ecosystems and the Nature of "Natures" 10. Food, Agriculture and the Environment Part 4: Alternatives 11. Alternative Agrofood Networks 12. Avoiding the "Traps" in Agrifood Studies 13. Looking Back … and Forward

About the Author

Michael Carolan is a Professor at Colorado State University (USA) and Chair of its Department of Sociology. He is author of The Real Cost of Cheap Food (Earthscan, 2011).

About the Series

Earthscan Food and Agriculture

Earthscan Food and Agriculture
This series includes a wide range of inter-disciplinary approaches to food and agriculture, integrating perspectives from both social and natural sciences. It includes textbooks, research monographs and titles aimed at professionals, NGOs and policy-makers. Authors or editors of potential new titles should contact Tim Hardwick, Senior Commissioning Editor (

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Agriculture / General