Food, Morals and Meaning: The Pleasure and Anxiety of Eating

Following on from the success of the primary edition, John Coveney traces our complex relationship with food and eating and our preoccupation with diet, self-discipline and food guilt. Using our current fascination with health and nutrition, he explores why our appetite for food pleasures makes us feel anxious. This up-to-date edition includes an examination of how our current obsession with body size, especially fatness, drives a national and international panic about the obesity ‘epidemic’.

Focusing on how our food anxieties have stemmed from social, political and non secular problems in Western history, Food, Morals and Meaninglooks at:

the ancient Greeks’ preoccupation with eating
early Christianity and therefore the conflict between the pleasures of the flesh and spirituality
scientific developments in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe and our current knowledge of food
the social organisation of food within the modern home, supported real interviews
the obesity ‘epidemic’ and its association with moral degeneration.

Based on the work of Michel Foucault, this fresh and updated edition explains how a rationalization food choice – so apparent in current programmes on nutrition and health – are often traced through a genealogy of historical social imperatives and moral panics.Food, Moralsand Meaningis essential reading for those studying nutrition, public health, sociology of health and illness and sociology of the body.

The decision to publish a second edition of this book, originally published in 2000, was, in fact, a comparatively easy one. within the time since the primary edition variety of important developments have taken place within the area of food and health which prioritise the arguments on which this book was based. These are that our relationship with food and eating is very complex, even problematic, especially in terms of the pleasures we derive from our appetite. Our preoccupation about what’s good to eat demonstrates not only an interest in our desire to raised understand what’s within the food we eat, from a nutritional sense, but also a deep and abiding interest in how we understand ourselves as social and individual moral agents of food choice. in other words, making the ‘right’ food choice is both a scientific judgement and an ethical decision.

The notion of the ‘good’ eater, however, is way from new. the science of nutrition is but a contemporary development during a moral history of food and eating which will be traced to earlier systems of thought in Western culture . Starting with ancient Greece and Rome, where codes of proper conduct of citizens were hooked in to a priority for the acceptable daily management of natural pleasures of the many kinds, including food and eating, we will see the beginnings of regimes of lifestyle. Moderation of one’s pleasures was the key principle. and from this developed a natural reason supported an understanding of one’s capacities as an ethical, that’s morally responsible, person. the popularity , or knowledge, of one’s self as a fit and proper subject was transformed within the later Christian period where austerity replaced moderation. the will for food, just like the desire for sex, was a reminder of the ‘natural’ bodily appetite which had to be tamed so as to maximise spiritual pursuits. and while European monastic practices of selfdenial, even chastisement, might not are fully embraced by audiences beyond the monastery walls, the practice of ‘fasting’ and deprivation was widely followed, albeit as a necessity for the poor of the time. the later integration within the Enlightenment period of Christian thinking, especially Protestantism, with scientific views of the planet provided grounds for a rationing of food, in terms of the right amounts the body needed for healthy functioning, and a rationing of delight . it’s no coincidence that deep Christian beliefs were held by a number of the foremost influential early thinkers and writers about the science of food and therefore the body . . .

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