Twice before, I’ve featured the work of Julie Guthman, an associate professor in the Community Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz. Earlier this year, Guthman published a new book, Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism, which challenges much of the popular discourse in the food movement, particularly as it pertains to obesity and food justice. With chapters bearing such titles as “Whose Problem Is Obesity?” and “Will Fresh, Local, Organic Food Make You Thin?”, Guthman takes issue with many of the axioms that lie at the foundation of today’s food movement. Although there were some parts of the book that I found less than convincing, Weighing In changed the way I look at food politics.
For instance, about a year ago, I criticized Michael Pollan for tending to write about meat-based meals even as he advised others to eat mostly plants. I concluded that the best way for him to improve his advocacy was “by talking about some inexpensive meals that are compatible with his dietary advice.” Having read Guthman’s book, I no longer believe that to be the case. I still see something deeply obnoxious in the inconsistency between Pollan’s dietary advice and his published accounts of his own eating, but Weighing In convinced me that the tendency of food movement leaders such as Pollan to focus on individual behaviors is itself deeply problematic.
This blog is not the place for a review of Weighing In, but since the book contains a number of direct criticisms of Michael Pollan’s work, in the coming days I’ll be posting a series of entries featuring these commentaries.