Food Justice, by Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi
There is a contradiction at the heart of this book, and one that is quite common when one is dealing with the artifacts of leftist thought. That is, this book is not really about justice at all. The food injustices that the authors write about are simply ways that the authors wish to justify their own particular leftist ideals and to bolster the activist class that they are a part of. Ultimately, the authors could not care less about the quality of food for consumers or even the well-being of farmers and farm workers except insofar as it allows for the glorification of union agitators and attacks at the legitimacy of companies whose profits are based out of their food production lines. The authors avoid talking about the sort of small farmers that are best served to create local food except for those small farmers who happen to be immigrants of frequently dubious legal status and cultural assimilation, showing that it is identity politics and leftist agitation rather than food justices that is the real subject of this book. The concerns about food, serious though they may be to the reader, are merely the pretext on the part of the authors for pushing their own political agenda.
This short book of almost 250 pages is divided into ten chapters and numerous smaller sections as well as two larger parts. After a series foreword the book begins with an introduction that seeks to define the author’s view of food justice and look at some activism on the part of New Orleans students regarding school food. The first part of the book then focuses on the authors’ view that the contemporary food system is unjust (I), with chapters on growing and producing food (1), the limited access to good food that many people have in an age of superstores and eating out (2), the way that food is consumed both at home and in fast food restaurants that has high calories but low nutrients (3), the politics of food as it relates to farm bills and school food (4), and the role of globalization in the food system (5). The second part of the book looks at various leftist agitation for food justice (II), including chapters on the battles and conflicts that seek to promote justice in the growing of food (6), the desire to forge new food routes from farm to consumer (7), the transformation of the food experience with slow food and local food initiatives (8), a desire for a leftist food politics (9), and encouraging a change agenda among the reader (10), after which there are notes and an index.
I went into this book knowing that I would not appreciate its approach simply because the authors are so relentlessly biased towards the left and my own political bias tends in the opposite direction. Nevertheless, a book like this is good oppo research because the authors are so transparent about their agenda. Only a naif would, upon reading this book, think that the authors are really interested in justice in the sense of a sustainable and peaceful and harmonious relationship between farmers, logistics firms, restaurants, consumers, and lawmakers. On the contrary, the authors make it clear that their agenda is to promote a leftist view of justice that involves a permanent hostility to family farms run by conservative white folk or businesses involved in making money. Likewise, the interests in slow food and local procurement of food often involve a hipster appeal that aims at high class leftists rather than the farm workers who the book appeals to via other means. Ultimately, a book like this is not about justice or consistency, but rather about appealing to various leftist constituencies whose aims and status are different but who can be trusted to agree that mainstream culture and private enterprise in food or anything else is a bad idea.