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Building Nature's Market

The Business and Politics of Natural Foods

Laura J. Miller

Building Nature's Market

Laura J. Miller

288 pages | 8 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226501376 Will Publish November 2017
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226501239 Will Publish November 2017
E-book $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226501406 Will Publish November 2017
For the first 150 years of their existence, “natural foods” were consumed primarily by body builders, hippies, religious sects, and believers in nature cure. And those consumers were dismissed by the medical establishment and food producers as kooks, faddists, and dangerous quacks. In the 1980s, broader support for natural foods took hold and the past fifteen years have seen an explosion—everything from healthy-eating superstores to mainstream institutions like hospitals, schools, and workplace cafeterias advertising their fresh-from-the-garden ingredients.

Building Nature’s Market shows how the meaning of natural foods was transformed as they changed from a culturally marginal, religiously inspired set of ideas and practices valorizing asceticism to a bohemian lifestyle to a mainstream consumer choice. Laura J. Miller argues that the key to understanding this transformation is to recognize the leadership of the natural foods industry. Rather than a simple tale of cooptation by market forces, Miller contends the participation of business interests encouraged the natural foods movement to be guided by a radical skepticism of established cultural authority. She challenges assumptions that private enterprise is always aligned with social elites, instead arguing that profit-minded entities can make common cause with and even lead citizens in advocating for broad-based social and cultural change.
Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments

Chapter 1  Markets and Movements
Chapter 2  Escaping Asceticism: The Birth of the Health Food Industry
Chapter 3  Living and Working on the Margins: A Countercultural Industry Develops
Chapter 4  Feeding the Talent: The Path to Legitimacy
Chapter 5  Questioning Authority: The State and Medicine Strike Back
Chapter 6  Style: Identifying the Audience for Natural Foods
Chapter 7  Drawing the Line: Boundary Disputes in the Natural Foods Field
Chapter 8  Cultural Change and Economic Growth: Assessing the Impact of a Business-Led Movement

Source Abbreviations
Notes
References
Review Quotes
Juliet Schor, author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth
“In a superb follow-up to her brilliant book on bookselling, Miller has produced a fascinating account of how natural foods were transformed from a marginal and idiosyncratic consumer segment into the cutting edge of consumer culture. By beginning with the industry’s early history, Miller is able to show continuities in culture and values, as well as illuminate longstanding tensions between commercial interests and movement crusaders. A major contribution to the fields of culture and consumption, this book is also essential reading for scholars interested in food studies, social movements, and economic sociology.”
Josée Johnston, coauthor of Foodies and Food and Femininity
“Many contemporary grocery stores carry a wide range of delicious natural foods, but the remarkable history of these foods is largely undocumented. Miller’s carefully researched history of natural foods in the United States changes that. This book offers readers an eye-opening look into the intimate connections between food ideals and market forces. We learn that the natural food movement has a long-standing relationship with capitalism, but Miller disabuses us of the notion that this relationship is simple, straightforward, or entirely negative. This is an impressive scholarly contribution, and an outstanding example of research connecting private lifestyles to public issues.”
Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places
“Miller masterfully documents the curious history of the natural foods movement in the United States, showing how its advocates have shifted strategically from ‘doing without’ to ‘doing good,’ and from ‘looking good’ to ‘eating well,’ while challenging the authority of experts, corporations, and the state. She creates a complicated picture in which the marketplace legitimizes a marginal culture, and consumers seek both virtue and pleasure.”
Lyn Spillman | author of Solidarity in Strategy: Making Business Meaningful in American Trade Associations
“If you think that markets and movements don’t mix, think again. In Miller’s entertaining and authoritative account of natural foods, we see business sustaining long-term dissent. Building Nature’s Market is a must-read for social movement scholars, as well as anyone concerned with economic culture.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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