Brian K. Obach

Brian K. Obach is Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at New Paltz and the author of Labor and the Environmental Movement: The Quest for Common Ground (MIT Press).

  • Organic Struggle

    Organic Struggle

    The Movement for Sustainable Agriculture in the United States

    Brian K. Obach

    An analysis of the successes and failures of the organic movement, focusing on coalition dynamics, movement-state relations, and market-based strategies for social change.

    In the early 1970s, organic farming was an obscure agricultural practice, associated with the counterculture rather than commerce. Today, organic agriculture is a multi-billion dollar industry; organic food can be found on the shelves of every supermarket in America. In Organic Struggle, Brian Obach examines the evolution of the organic movement in the United States, a movement that seeks to transform our system of agriculture and how we think about food.

    Obach analyzes why the organic movement developed as it did and evaluates its achievements and shortcomings. He identifies how divergent interests within the diverse organic coalition created vulnerabilities for the movement. In particular, he examines the ideological divide between those he calls the “spreaders,” who welcome the wider market for organic food and want to work with both government and agribusiness, and the more purist “tillers,” who see organic practices as part of a broader social transformation that will take place outside existing institutions.

    Obach argues that the movement's changing relationship with governmental institutions is crucial to understanding the trajectory of the organic sector. The government-run National Organic Program fostered dramatic growth and deep corporate penetration of the organic market. While many activists were disillusioned by changes in the organic industry that came with corporate and government involvement, Obach sees a failure in the essential market- based strategy adopted by the movement early in its history. He argues for a refocus on policy efforts that can reshape the agricultural system as a whole.

    • Hardcover $32.00
    • Paperback $20.00
  • Labor and the Environmental Movement

    Labor and the Environmental Movement

    The Quest for Common Ground

    Brian K. Obach

    Relations between organized labor and environmental groups are typically characterized as adversarial, most often because of the specter of job loss invoked by industries facing environmental regulation. But, as Brian Obach shows, the two largest and most powerful social movements in the United States actually share a great deal of common ground. Unions and environmentalists have worked together on a number of issues, including workplace health and safety, environmental restoration, and globalization (as in the surprising solidarity of "Teamsters and Turtles" in the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle).

    Labor and the Environmental Movement examines why, when, and how labor unions and environmental organizations either cooperate or come into conflict. By exploring the interorganizational dynamics that are crucial to cooperative efforts and presenting detailed studies of labor-environmental group coalition building from around the country (examining in detail examples from Maine, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin), it provides insight into how these movements can be brought together to promote a just and sustainable society.

    Obach gives a brief history of relations between organized labor and environmental groups in the United States, explores how organizational learning can increase organizations' ability to work with others, and examines the crucial role played by "coalition brokers" who maintain links to both movements. He challenges research that attempts to explain inter-movement conflict on the basis of cultural distinctions between blue-collar workers and middle-class environmentalists, providing evidence of legal and structural constraints that better explain the organizational differences class-culture and new-social-movement theorists identify. The final chapter includes a model of the crucial determinants of cooperation and conflict that can serve as the basis for further study of inter-movement relations.

    • Hardcover $14.75
    • Paperback $7.75