“They’ll Be Breeding Us Like Cattle!”: Population Ecology and Human Exceptionalism in Soylent Green

  • Seán McCorry
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


From the late 1960s through the 1970s, a new awareness of the extraordinary growth rate of the world population reenergised Malthusian themes in environmentalism and the environmental sciences. In the field of population ecology, the publication of The Limits to Growth (1972) and The Population Bomb (1968) heightened cultural anxieties around “overpopulation”, and in the same period, a thriving subgenre of speculative fiction translated these anxieties into apocalyptic narratives of population crisis. In this paper, I aim to situate Richard Fleischer’s 1973 film Soylent Green within an analysis of the biopolitics of the contemporary scientific debate on population. Soylent Green testifies to the ambivalent position of the human in the biopolitics of population management, imagining the rediscovery of the edibility of the human body as the necessary corollary of a thoroughly modern discourse of population management, shorn of its vestigial commitment to human exceptionalism.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seán McCorry
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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