Company Towns

Company Towns: Corporate Order and Community

NEIL WHITE
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2ttpns
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  • Book Info
    Company Towns
    Book Description:

    Neil White challenges the common interpretation of company towns as powerless, dependant communities by exploring how these settlements were altered at the local level through human agency, missteps, and chance.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9576-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-9)

    Since machines first sputtered to life in England over two centuries ago, company towns have existed on the world’s resource and manufacturing frontiers. Capitalists of all stripes have, to paraphrase Marx, nestled, settled, and established connections ‘everywhere’ in their quest for ‘constantly expanding markets.’¹ The need for growth has pushed firms seeking competitive advantages in controlling resources and dictating development from cities outward to geographic peripheries. Founded to extract resources or manufacture finished products for sale, company towns are vital early links in the commodity chains of global capitalism.

    The pursuit of economic control fosters the desire among company officials...

  7. Chapter One ‘The Old Order Changeth’: Industrial Development at Corner Brook
    (pp. 10-30)

    There is no way around the fundamental fact that company towns are creations of capital. To achieve a deep reassessment of the structuralist definition of company towns, it is necessary then to start in this familiar interpretive territory. I begin with the business and industrial histories of Corner Brook and Mount Isa. Testing the tautology of corporate power against the evidence reveals a jagged gap in our understanding of company towns: we know very little about the specific form and content of development and social relations in different company towns.

    The plans that the companies drew up for Corner Brook...

  8. Chapter Two ‘Worth Dominating?’ Industrial Development at Mount Isa
    (pp. 31-51)

    The corporate developers of Mount Isa faced their own suite of obstacles and opportunities that shaped local history. To compare briefly, the characteristics of the resources that base-metal and paper companies dealt with led to contrasting modes of extraction and different industrial and economic rhythms. A mineral discovery entailed risk while a paper mill could be a relative ‘sure thing.’ The metals of Queensland’s hilly subtropical Cloncurry region lay buried where timber and water resources are visible above ground. The small exposed veins of lead on the spinifex-covered hills along the Leichhardt River offered prospectors only tantalizing clues to the...

  9. Chapter Three ‘Praying for a Conflagration’: Planned and Fringe Towns
    (pp. 52-91)

    Moving from the corporate histories to a comparison of the built environments of Corner Brook and Mount Isa pinpoints deeper differences between company towns. A built environment is the frame of daily life in any settlement: the structures, utility and transportation infrastructure, and layouts that characterize a place. Social relations are expressed in the wood, metal, and bitumen that make the physical outlines of a town. These differences go far beyond surface judgments of placement and aesthetics, though, into histories of power relations and social processes. Nowhere is this function of creating a built environment more apparent than in locations...

  10. Chapter Four Collaborators, Communists, and Casanovas? Labour at Corner Brook and Mount Isa
    (pp. 92-130)

    Political economies of industrialization and built environments set the outlines of town growth in Mount Isa and Corner Brook, but it was the actions of thousands of residents that filled in those spaces to create communities that defy type. It is to these critical social histories that we turn in the remaining chapters, beginning with a comparison of the labour histories of each town.

    The inimical interests of capitalist and working classes define the structural terms of capitalist economies. It follows that class relations are central to the functioning of company towns. Working-class consciousness – the subjective understanding of belonging...

  11. Chapter Five ‘If I had to get a factory job I’d be fired’: Civic Life and Resident-Company Negotiation
    (pp. 131-158)

    We turn now to community life: first to the activities of formal community groups and later to the small autonomies that shaped daily life. To understand local order in Corner Brook and Mount Isa, we must look within the extremities of force and consent that mark the endpoints of Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony to the messy midpoints of that continuum.¹ Rather than violent conflict or shrugging resignation, negotiation, compromise, and accommodation were the wellsprings of community growth in Mount Isa and Corner Brook. Society in both locales took place on a negotiated middle ground, the same field of contestation...

  12. Chapter Six ‘Personal Relationships and Private Worlds’? Structures of Feeling in Company Towns
    (pp. 159-180)

    Industrial relations established the framework for company towns, but the collective daily experiences of thousands of residents created dynamic communities. The corporations that founded Corner Brook and Mount Isa avoided conflicts that could have overturned the advantageous power relations they had initiated. There were serious disputes, of course, but the companies held on to their local balance of authority. Corporations retained hegemony, partially by persuading and coercing residents to accept their role as authorities. Like other layers of history in the two communities, the tones of daily life in the communities differed from one another. Social relations in Corner Brook...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 181-188)

    The people of Corner Brook who ‘didn’t want for anything’ did not mean that they experienced no conflict, sorrow, or unfulfilled dreams in the western Newfoundland mill town. In a similar way, residents who fought for ‘fair dinkum’ relations between townspeople, the mining company, and the government in Mount Isa certainly did not harbour the illusion that they would achieve perfect equality in the Queensland outback. These impressions capture diverging social attitudes in two company towns but they do not tell the whole story. To uncover the subtle but crucial differences between company towns like Mount Isa and Corner Brook...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 189-214)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-230)
  16. Index
    (pp. 231-242)