Over the past twenty years, obesity has risen in the United States to epidemic proportions. Today, over sixty percent of Americans are overweight, and over one in four is obese. This book examines the cultural contradictions that underlie this massive transformation. Oliver's highly readable yet carefully documented book addresses the meaning of obesity in American life. At one level, the book outlines very straightforward issues such as controversies over the sources of obesity, its ecomic and social consequences, and its prospects for resolution. At ather level, the book examines fatism, the last bastion of acceptable discrimination in the United States, particularly as it applies to women. Finally, the book makes a deeper argument about how obesity reflects a serious contradiction in American life. At other time in human history has food been so easily available and survival so physically un-taxing. But rather than giving us greater freedom, our affluence has disempowered us. Most Americans continue to gain weight and fight a losing struggle to reduce their body sizes, and increasingly, the overweight are derided for their moral failure. As more people become obese, this cultural paradox will grow. In the book's conclusion, Oliver outlines how the contradiction surrounding America's obesity epidemic may be resolved and where the battle lines in the coming fat wars are likely to be drawn.
J. Eric Oliver is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Democracy in Suburbia and The Paradoxes of Segregation.