Sociology, floating in the ether

To my surprise, there is scattered evidence that people are reading my book. It makes me uncomfortable – that perhaps, somewhere, a graduate seminar is trashing it, someone is posting a takedown on goodreads, etc. But since I’ve largely assumed that my book was rapidly consigned to the intellectual dustheap – appropriate, for a book about freegans! – I’ve been happy for some of the reviews that it’s getting, about which I will now gloat:

“In sum, through robust analysis and the detailed experiences of several members, Barnard provides a thorough and engaging exploration of and the wider political economy within (and against) which it operates…The timeliness of many themes, from political disenfranchisement and social movements to climate change and food security, make this a compelling and urgent read. Barnard’s easy and accessible writing style ensures this book is also engaging and valuable to a non-academic audience.” – Jacob Briggs, Environmental Politics.

“In Freegans: Diving into the Wealth of Food Waste in America, Alex Barnard provides a provocative case study of a New York City based organization of freegans who attempt to challenge neoliberal capitalist practices through means of direct action this book would be a wonderful text for a social movement class looking for a well written, enjoyable read to illustrate the recruitment, tactics, role of identity and culture, and decline of a movement.” – Jordan Brown, Mobilization.

“Barnard provides an accessible, well-written ethnography of pertinent issues of food waste and contemporary activism in our cities that would appeal to both entry-level university students and the layperson alike…this thorough account reminds us of
the dangers of capitalist co-option and the need to stick to our values when the world around us appears blind.” – Ferne Edwards, British Journal of Sociology.

“This book would be well placed in a course on alternative food systems, waste politics or political action. For readers outside of the academy, this work will shed light on how alternative activists are enacting a more sustainable future today, and citizens who are doubtful that sustainability can be attained via conscious consumption might find inspiration in freegans’ radical waste politics.” – Sara Minard, Food Culture and Society.

“Theoretical discussions like this demonstrate that the book is more than an ethnography on a deviant social group, as the too narrow title implies. It is as much a critical contribution to political economy for everyone interested in the full cycle of capitalism, from production via distribution to consumption or destruction…This is not to say that the ethnographic descriptions are mere embellishment. On the contrary, Barnard gives a fascinating account of one subset of contemporary anarchist practice in the United States…After finishing the book, readers might be tempted to explore for themselves the usefulness of ex-commodities, the next time they walk by a dumpster or a trash bag at the curbside.” – Johann Strube, Agriculture and Human Values

“Barnard argues convincingly that much can be learned from his extended case study. The struggle of living one’s beliefs while confronting and attempting to overthrow the larger neoliberal structure is an informative one for anyone trying to change the system…while freeganism will not lead to capitalism’s downfall, it does illustrate in a vivid and relevant way how and why capitalism leads to exploitation and environmental degradation and how we might begin to develop the material and organisational skills necessary to change society.” – Sarah Surak, Environmental Values.

Critiques? Two gripes about the title (not my fault, although imagine the critiques if my publisher had let me keep my shitty title!), not enough on methodology (sort of my fault!), and nothing on social movement theory (my advisor’s fault and/or great advice). Can’t please them all (or most of the people on “GoodReads” that I’m not referencing).

4 thoughts on “Sociology, floating in the ether

  1. Nice reviews, and well deserved, Alex. While the number of people actively seeking knowledge about Freegan culture may be limited, their appetite tends to be that of those who are starving or famished. As time goes by, your work may turn out to be more and more greatly valued, as it can only become more and more relevant.

    1. Thanks. At the very least, perhaps, it will serve as a testament to the decline of capitalist society before we descend into full barbarism 🙂

  2. That’s awesome, Alex!! This post also serves as a timely reminder for me to get the book and read it.

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