Bitter Harvest

An Inquiry into the War between Economy and Earth

By Lisi Krall

Subjects: Economic History, Environmental Philosophy, Anthropology Of Work, Sociology Of Work, Cultural Studies
Hardcover : 9781438489919, 196 pages, August 2022
Paperback : 9781438489902, 196 pages, February 2023

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



Part I: The Economic Superorganism

1. Agriculture and the Evolution of the Economic Superorganism

2. Agri-culture?

3. The Division of Labor

Part II: Bitter Harvest

4. The Tapestry of the Universal and the Particular

5. "A Species Out of Context"

Part III: Apogee

6. Capitalism: A System within a System

7. In Search of a Deep Ecology of Economic Order

Epilogue: Languishing in the Twilight of the Apogee


Explores the duality between humans and Earth through a focus on the economic system changes that began with grain agriculture and has now reached its apogee in global capitalism.


Humans are in danger of crossing a divide where their foothold on an earth once abundant in self-willed otherness is slipping away. This is apparent with the sixth mass extinction, climate change, and the many breaches of planetary boundaries. Bitter Harvest brings clarity to this moment in history through a focus on economic order, how it comes to be what it is, and the way it structures the relationship between humans and Earth. An unusual synergy of disciplines (evolutionary biology, history, economic systems analysis, anthropology, and deep ecology) are tapped to fully explore the emergence of an economic system that contextualized a duality between humans and Earth. Conversations that focus on capitalism and the industrial revolution are subsumed under the longer arc of history and the system change that began with the cultivation of annual grains. Bitter Harvest engenders a more critical conversation about the complexity of the human relationship to Earth and the challenge of altering the economic trajectory that began with agriculture and has now reached its apogee in global capitalism.

Lisi Krall is Professor of Economics at the State University of New York College at Cortland. She is the author of Proving Up: Domesticating Land in U.S. History, also published by SUNY Press.


"In demonstrating that the development of agricultural society both engendered the great villains of the Anthropocene—capitalism, growth without limits, fossil fuels, and industrialization—and was supercharged by them, Bitter Harvest makes humanity's dire existential predicament starkly visible in a way that neither ecological economists nor ecosocialists have managed to do." — Stan Cox, The Land Institute

"An important aspect of this book is a willingness to be blunt about ecological limits and the need for global change. The problem is not just the indulgence of the one percent but a deeper pathology in contemporary systems." — Robert Jensen, University of Texas Austin

"Bitter Harvest tells the story of ecological breakdown and human alienation from the Earth inaugurated with the emergence of grain agriculture and human settlements around that production mode. Krall connects the dots—in ways no one has done before—to reveal the existence of an economic superorganism whose logic requires perpetual surplus, population growth, expansion and militarism, and hierarchy and classes." — Eileen Crist, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University