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Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization

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Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization Cover

ISBN13: 9780865477131
ISBN10: 0865477132
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In this provocative, wide-ranging book, Richard Manning offers a dramatically revisionist view of recent human evolution, beginning with the vast increase in brain size that set us apart from our primate relatives and brought an accompanying increase in our need for nourishment. For 290,000 years, we managed to meet that need as hunter-gatherers, a state in which Manning believes we were at our most human: at our smartest, strongest, most sensually alive. But our reliance on food made a secure supply deeply attractive, and eventually we embarked upon the agricultural experiment that has been the history of our past 10,000 years.

The evolutionary road is littered with failed experiments, however, and Manning suggests that agriculture as we have practiced it runs against both our grain and nature's. Drawing on the work of anthropologists, biologists, archaeologists, and philosophers, along with his own travels, he argues that not only our ecological ills-overpopulation, erosion, pollution-but our social and emotional malaise are rooted in the devil's bargain we made in our not-so-distant past. And he offers personal, achievable ways we might re-contour the path we have taken to resurrect what is most sustainable and sustaining in our own nature and the planet's.

Richard Manning is the author of Last Stand, A Good House, Grassland, One Round River, and Food's Frontier. He lives in Montana.
In this important study, Richard Manning narrates a fascinating revisionist history of agriculture, from the domestication of plants and animals ten thousand years ago to today's corporate megafarms. Instead of a bucolic Ur-myth, Manning portrays an enterprise that was from its inception expansionist, and that did not so much accompany colonialism as drive it. Drawing on the work of anthropologists, biologists, archaeologists, and historians, as well as on his own extensive research, Manning traces a commodification of grain that has reached its apex in contemporary agribusiness, and that has helped build some of the most familiarand dysfunctionalfeatures of today's political and economic landscape.

In the process, Manning shows here, agriculture not only overran native peoples and species but also pushed past the limits of land itselfand finally into the water, where we now farm fish. At the same time, it served upfor the masses of poor people it produceda high-carb, sugar-laden, monotonous diet, and in doing so undermined the mental and physical fitness, sensory alertness, and egalitarianism that characterized our species in the 290,000 years before agriculture, when we were, Manning believes, at our most human.

It would be fair to say, as the author bravely asserts, that agriculture has actually domesticatedenslavedus. Thus he offers thoughts in how we might recontour our path, personally and collectively, to resurrect what is most sustaining to both our own nature and the planet's.

"This book will raise screams from what we pretend to be the 'farmer community,' but those screams will be from corporate welfare recipients, not real gardeners and farmers. Manning's indictment is so well researched, provocative, and damning that it makes us feel moral conflict every time we place a processed food product in our mouths. This conflictedness can only improve our health and lives."David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K
"A provocative and engaging read."Lynda V. Mapes, The Seattle Times

"Richard Manning's important new book is radical in the very best sense, taking agriculture by the roots to make a bracing case that unless we manage to tame this environmental juggernaut, it will ruin our health and the health of the planet."Michael Pollan

"As much as Williams Burroughs ever did, Manning wants to freeze your fork in the air so you can see naked the food perched at the end of it."Matt Fleischer-Black, The Village Voice

"Manning makes a strong case for his thesis that the switch to agriculture came at a high cost . . . Manning's book is well argued, well researched, and unquestionably provocative. It should be required reading for those looking to understand the close connection between agriculture and the environment."Chuck Leddy, San Francisco Chronicle

"Against the Grain is both fascinating and frightening. But Manning reports more than bad newshe also suggests solutions. This is an important book. Lets hope its widely read, and that its urgent message reaches our leaders. As it will, if we insist loudly enough."William Kittredge, author of The Nature of Generosity

"Surprising . . . Manning looks beyond the environmental effects of agriculture and civilization, which have already been well documented, and explores what these inventions have done to the quality of human life on the planet."Steve Grove, The Atlantic Monthly

"Snatches up civilization by its very roots and gives it a good, long, exhaustively researched shake."Lydialyle Gibson, Chicago Journal

"Anyone who can read this book and still accept the NPR-advertised Archer Daniels Midland notion of non-sustainable monoculture 'feeding the world' is sleepwalking off a cliff. Industrial agriculture is not farming: it's a political scam that gives industrialists money to bankrupt real farmers, force unhealthy food-commodities upon the world, and ruin cultures and ecosystems in the process. This book will raise screams from what we pretend to be the 'farmer community,' but those screams will be from corporate welfare recipients, not real gardeners and farmers. Manning's indictment is so well researched, provocative, and damning that it makes us feel moral conflict every time we place a processed food product in our mouths. This conflictedness can only improve our health and lives."David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and My Life as Told by Water

"Against the Grain is an important book. It effectively upends the assumption that domesticating agriculture thousands of years ago improved lives then and now. Instead, agriculture domesticated people. Manning brings the concentration of the hunter-gatherer to his subject. The writing is taut and powerful. He shows how with agriculture diets deteriorated, workloads increased, and social inequities soared. [Through agriculture, Manning asserts,] we have become distanced from our very natures as sensual human beings. Agriculture's quest is products. As grain production rose, it required more outlets, so we eat what needs to be sold. Manning points the way to restored health for humanity and for ecosystems: a counteragriculture of food rather than food products. Diversify what gets planted, raised, and eaten to go against the grain."Deborah Popper, geographer at the College of Staten Island, CUNY

"Against the Grain is a brilliant, provocative book. Where environmental journalism is concerned, Manning is at the head of the class."Larry McMurtry

"An exhilarating and provocative questioning of our most ingrained beliefs about how we get our food and why. A must read for anyone concerned about the intimate couplings of man, plant, and beast."Betty Fussell, author of The Story of Corn

"Manning is a Montana-based writer whose books frequently focus on environmental themes. His latest takes a sweeping, critical look at agriculture's social, economic, and political effects on humankind, as w

Synopsis:

In this provocative, wide-ranging book, Richard Manning offers a dramatically revisionist view of recent human evolution, beginning with the vast increase in brain size that set us apart from our primate relatives and brought an accompanying increase in our need for nourishment. For 290,000 years, we managed to meet that need as hunter-gatherers, a state in which Manning believes we were at our most human: at our smartest, strongest, most sensually alive. But our reliance on food made a secure supply deeply attractive, and eventually we embarked upon the agricultural experiment that has been the history of our past 10,000 years.

The evolutionary road is littered with failed experiments, however, and Manning suggests that agriculture as we have practiced it runs against both our grain and nature's. Drawing on the work of anthropologists, biologists, archaeologists, and philosophers, along with his own travels, he argues that not only our ecological ills-overpopulation, erosion, pollution-but our social and emotional malaise are rooted in the devil's bargain we made in our not-so-distant past. And he offers personal, achievable ways we might re-contour the path we have taken to resurrect what is most sustainable and sustaining in our own nature and the planet's.

Synopsis:

In this provocative book, Richard Manning narrates a fascinating revisionist history of agriculture, from the domestication of plants and animals ten thousand years ago to today's corporate megafarms. Instead of presenting a bucolic Ur-myth, Manning portrays an enterprise that was, from its inception designed more for creating wealth and poverty than for feeding people, and that, in the form of contemporary agribusiness, has helped to build some of the most familiar--and dysfunctional--features of our political and social landscape.

About the Author

Richard Manning is the author of Last Stand, A Good House, Grassland, One Round River, and Food's Frontier. He lives in Montana.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Jeremy Delgado, November 24, 2009 (view all comments by Jeremy Delgado)
Against the Grain is a interesting read. I dont agree with everything presented in this book at times it seems preachy. However the account about the mexican farmers is very interesting. Really many of the accounts in the book present many facts and details that are great food for thought. For me it inspired ideas other than what the author presented. My copy is filled with counter-arguments in the margins and for this reason and this reason only I recommend this book in that it invites open dialogue.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780865477131
Author:
Manning, Richard
Publisher:
North Point Press
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Ecology
Subject:
Agriculture
Subject:
Agriculture - General
Subject:
Agriculture -- History.
Subject:
Agriculture -- Social aspects -- History.
Subject:
World History-General
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20050231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
8.3 x 5.53 x 0.61 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » World History » General
Science and Mathematics » Agriculture » General
Science and Mathematics » Agriculture » Politics and Economics
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Environment
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Food and Famine

Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization New Trade Paper
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Product details 240 pages North Point Press - English 9780865477131 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
In this provocative, wide-ranging book, Richard Manning offers a dramatically revisionist view of recent human evolution, beginning with the vast increase in brain size that set us apart from our primate relatives and brought an accompanying increase in our need for nourishment. For 290,000 years, we managed to meet that need as hunter-gatherers, a state in which Manning believes we were at our most human: at our smartest, strongest, most sensually alive. But our reliance on food made a secure supply deeply attractive, and eventually we embarked upon the agricultural experiment that has been the history of our past 10,000 years.

The evolutionary road is littered with failed experiments, however, and Manning suggests that agriculture as we have practiced it runs against both our grain and nature's. Drawing on the work of anthropologists, biologists, archaeologists, and philosophers, along with his own travels, he argues that not only our ecological ills-overpopulation, erosion, pollution-but our social and emotional malaise are rooted in the devil's bargain we made in our not-so-distant past. And he offers personal, achievable ways we might re-contour the path we have taken to resurrect what is most sustainable and sustaining in our own nature and the planet's.

"Synopsis" by , In this provocative book, Richard Manning narrates a fascinating revisionist history of agriculture, from the domestication of plants and animals ten thousand years ago to today's corporate megafarms. Instead of presenting a bucolic Ur-myth, Manning portrays an enterprise that was, from its inception designed more for creating wealth and poverty than for feeding people, and that, in the form of contemporary agribusiness, has helped to build some of the most familiar--and dysfunctional--features of our political and social landscape.
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