A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat


Capitalism drives our global food system. Everyone who wants to end hunger, who wants to eat good, clean, healthy food, needs to understand capitalism. This book will help do that.

In his latest book, Eric Holt-Giménez takes on the social, environmental, and economic crises of the capitalist mode of food production. Drawing from classical and modern analyses, A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism introduces the reader to the history of our food system and to the basics of capitalism. In straightforward prose, Holt-Giménez explains the political economics of why—even as local, organic, and gourmet food have spread around the world—billions go hungry in the midst of abundance; why obesity is a global epidemic; and why land-grabbing, global warming, and environmental pollution are increasing.

Holt-Giménez offers emblematic accounts—and critiques—of past and present-day struggles to change the food system, from “voting with your fork,” to land occupations. We learn about the potential and the pitfalls of organic and community-supported agriculture, certified fair trade, microfinance, land trusts, agrarian reform, cooperatives, and food aid. We also learn about the convergence of growing social movements using the food system to challenge capitalism. How did racism, classism, and patriarchy become structural components of our food system? Why is a rational agriculture incompatible with the global food regime? Can transforming our food system transform capitalism? These are questions that can only be addressed by first understanding how capitalism works.

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It is high time that everyone concerned about food takes a cold, hard look at the ugly underside of our food system. That means addressing unequal relations of wealth and power, looking capitalism in the eye, and taking it on. This is the book to help us do that.

—Peter Rosset, author, Food is Different: Why We Must Get the WTO Out of Agriculture; professor of agroecology at the ECOSUR Advanced Studies Institute in Chiapas, Mexico

Food is life. Growing food is the livelihood of most of humanity. And we all eat. Eric Holt-Giménez, in A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism, shows how food has been transformed into commodity, destroying farmers’ livelihoods, destroying the health of the planet and the health of people. He calls on each of us to become the change we want to see in the food system, so it nourishes the Earth and all beings.

—Vandana Shiva, environmental and food activist; author, Who Really Feeds the World?: The Failures of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology

Through the food lens, Eric Holt-Giménez offers an arresting account of the historic workings of capitalism, with its massive social deprivations and environmental costs. Rehearsing food system struggle experiences and bad-faith corporate market solutions, he champions a countermovement of intersectional alliances to reclaim public rights in creating a new politics of food justice.

—Philip McMichael, Cornell University; author, Food Regimes and Agrarian Questions

In a sweeping and informative analysis of farming and the entire food system, Holt-Giménez dissects the current data, as well as commercial approaches and consumer trends. This book will help all those—foodies included—who need to understand how they are connected to the way capitalist economies function. In order to bring about structural change in the food system, progressive foodies need to unite with other movements for social change.

—Fred Magdoff, Professor Emeritus of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont; author, with Chris Williams, of Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation

A necessary book that reveals the indissoluble link between the capitalist system and the ills of the food system. An illuminating read for anyone who wants to understand the forces in the field, and the dynamics in action. A book for change, a book for the future.

—Carlo Petrini, author; gourmet; founder of Slow Food International and The University of Gastronomic Sciences

Lively, timely, and engrossing, this is the only book you need to understand everything that’s wrong with our industrial, capitalist food systems. A capsule history, a novice’s guide or refresher course on Marx, deep theoretical and practical understanding of food and farming, all in straightforward, understandable language; Eric Holt-Giménez is a national and international treasure. He should be read even—or especially—by people who aren’t foodies.

—Susan George, author, How the Other Half Dies: the Real Reasons for World Hunger; President of the Transnational Institute

Why do billions of people go hungry or suffer malnutrition when it should be possible to produce enough food to nourish the entire world? Why is obesity a global epidemic? Why is there so much food waste? A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism is not shy in its criticism of ‘business as usual’ capitalism, and encourages the reader to think long and hard about alternatives to unfettered capitalism that could lend more power to small farmers, to impoverished populations, and to ordinary consumers. Highly recommended, especially for public and college library social issues shelves.

—Midwest Book Review

Additional information

Weight 350 g
Dimensions 21.1 × 14 × 1.7 cm