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Rubbish Theory

Rubbish Theory

The Creation and Destruction of Value - New Edition

by Michael Thompson

Foreword by Joshua O. Reno

How do objects that have lost their value become valuable once again? 
Rubbish is something we ignore. By definition we discard it, from our lives and our minds, and it remains outside the concerns of conventional economics. However, this book explores the dynamics through which rubbish can re-enter circulation as a prized commodity, in many cases far exceeding its original value. Antiques, vintage cars and period homes, after being discarded as valueless, can, even after many years, become priceless.

First published in 1979, Rubbish Theory has become foundational in its field. Today, it is as relevant as ever. This edition includes a new afterword revealing how the consequences of our compulsion to discard are far from inevitable, and going on to explore how we can transform our troublesome wastes into valuable resources.

Michael Thompson is a Senior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria. He is also an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford. He is the author of Rubbish Theory (Pluto, 2017).

Joshua O. Reno is a Professor at Binghamton University, US. A socio-cultural anthropologist, he is the author of Waste Away, Military Waste and co-author of Imagining the Heartland. He co-edited the collection Economies of Recycling.

'Original, insightful, and entertaining' - Ian Stewart, author of Seventeen Equations that Changed the World (Profile Books, 2012) 'Witty and wide-ranging scholarly scholarly study ... a fascinating contribution to cultural theory' - The Guardian 'A remarkably original and creative book, far ahead of its time. Thompson's analysis is not only a major contribution to the anthropological theorising of waste and value, but it is also highly relevant for the contemporary dilemmas of growth and environmental destruction' - Thomas Hylland Eriksen, author of Overheating (Pluto, 2016) 'Highly recommended' - CHOICE
Foreword by Joshua O. Reno
Introduction to the New Edition
1. The Filth in the Way
2. Stevengraphs - Yesterday’s Kitsch
3. Rat-infested Slum or Glorious Heritage?
4. From Things to Ideas
5. A Dynamic Theory of Rubbish
6. Art and the Ends of Economic Activity
7. Monster Conservation
8. The Geometry of Credibility
9. The Geometry of Confidence
10. The Needle’s Eye
Afterword (co-authored by M. Bruce Beck)
Published by Pluto Press in Jun 2017
Paperback ISBN: 9780745399782
eBook ISBN: 9781786800978

135mm x 215mm