Corporate Power and Urban Crisis in Detroit

Corporate Power and Urban Crisis in Detroit

Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 324
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  • Book Info
    Corporate Power and Urban Crisis in Detroit
    Book Description:

    Lynda Ann Ewen offers the first thoroughgoing Marxist-Leninist analysis, based on primary research, of the structure and dynamics of class relations and corporate power in a major U.S. metropolitan area. She contends that Detroit's urban crisis is not a temporary aberration in a good system run amuck, but the logical result of years of social planning and the use of human and natural resources for the benefit of the few.

    In general, analyses of the problems in American society have endorsed capitalist ideals and assumptions. Nevertheless, these analyses and the reform measures that have accompanied them in the past decade have done little to alleviate the plight of the cities. To determine what action should now be taken, Professor Ewen focuses on the development of class conflict in the United States and its manifestations in Detroit. The author analyzes kinship and also ownership and control of the major firms in Detroit. The contradictions that led to the urban crisis, she concludes, are inherent in the fundamental nature of a class society, in which the social means of production are privately owned by an elite group who must produce profits at all costs. She argues that to protect its interests and prepare the way for socialism, the working class requires a grasp of its historical and present opposition to the ruling class.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7197-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-4)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 5-11)

    In the past decade the urban crisis has become defined as one of the most acute internal social problems that has ever faced the United States. The contradictions of the cities—poverty; the civil rights movements against discrimination in housing, education, and employment; increasing strikes and walk-outs in the factories and the increasing militancy of white collar employees—have exploded into the public consciousness. These contradictions are discussed and analyzed in the media and academia as symptoms of what is wrong in American society—what isn’t working right about urban planning, what isn’t working right about democracy, what isn’t working...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Detroit: A City in Crisis
    (pp. 12-45)

    Detroit’s problems as an urban area can be most directly gauged by the amount of money and energy that is spent in assuring the general public that “Detroit is Getting Better” and that “Detroit Is a Wonderful Place To Live.” The Junior League sponsored a forty-page supplement to theDetroit Free Pressin 1971 entitled “The Lord Helps Towns That Help Themselves.” In the lead-off article the Junior League stated:

    “They say Detroit is dying . . . becoming uninhabitable . . . deteriorating . . . or what other words would they choose? But who are they . ....

  6. CHAPTER THREE Detroit History: The Ruling Class
    (pp. 46-77)

    What Detroit is today is the logical result of its history. In order to understand the present, the historical forces of the past must be analyzed and understood. From a Marxist perspective, this requires analysis of the development of classes in Detroit and the struggle that has historically occurred between them.¹ This requires an understanding of the process by which power based on control of the means of production came to be concentrated in the hands of a small number of families, and how this class used that power to insure its continued dominance over an everexpanding and increasingly militant...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  8. CHAPTER FOUR Detroit History: The Working Class
    (pp. 78-104)

    Accepted myths portray the hardy pioneer whose principal enemies were the hostile elements of nature, the Indians, and the wild animals. But the story of the workers’ struggles in Detroit is a story ofclass,not individual, struggle.

    This chapter sketches the development of the working class of Detroit. In the earliest period, workers who were not farmers were primarily skilled tradesmen and artisans. But with the growth of technology and of the productive forces, this group became larger and increasingly less skilled in a specialized trade. These changes were accompanied by changes in the relationships between the classes, which...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Minorities and the Detroit Working Class
    (pp. 105-127)

    The central thesis of this book is that it is the class struggle that will define the future alternatives facing the City of Detroit. But the dominant ideologies of the current system do not trace social problems to their basis in the class contradiction. Indeed, other rationalizations and contradictions are offered in place of, and in order to obscure, the class contradiction. Thus, “race” becomes a primary focus for explaining the urban problem, and whether it be the fault of the “white racist working class” or the “institutional racism” of the system, the divisions and hostilities engendered within the working...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Ownership and Control in Detroit: The Largest Firms
    (pp. 128-156)

    The three previous chapters have traced the social and historical basis for the development of the two major classes in the Detroit area—its working class and its ruling class. The irreconcilable contradiction between these two classes is based on the appropriation, by the ruling class, of the wealth created by the working class. This takes the specific form of the private ownership and control of society's means of production. And the private accumulation of vast industrial wealth and power by a small class has had major historical consequences for the city.¹ The next three chapters will detail aspects of...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN: Ownership and Control in Detroit: The Families Behind the Firms
    (pp. 157-177)

    Although the previous chapter demonstrated certain centers of ownership and control over a number of important Detroit firms, these results did not really answer the question of “who?” This question can be adequately answered only by referring to Detroit families—for it is through the family unit that wealth, and the power that flows from that wealth, are inherited by birth and consolidated by marriage. Thus, Detroit is not just a “dirty, factory town” filled with factories and slums; it is also an urban oasis where the mansions of the wealthy overlook rivers or lakes, where glittering charity balls and...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Ownership and Control in Detroit: Ideological Dominance
    (pp. 178-215)

    Although the social problems of the Detroit area discussed—in housing, health, work place, and environment—are seen and understood by large numbers of workers in the area, an analysis of their source and an understanding of the remedy are not clearly understood. The explanation for these problems offered by theDetroit News,theDetroit Free Press,television, Time magazine, the schools and universities denies the analysis that has been offered up to this point. At the same time, none of the explanations and remedies proposed by the media and the “experts” seems to work. Workers see, on the one...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Social Planning and Social Control
    (pp. 216-248)

    The social problems described in Chapter two are well known to both the ruling class and the working class of the Detroit area. The crime, the drugs, the physical ugliness of the city are seen as undesirable by almost all Detroit area citizens. What is at point of contention, however, is the question of the solution. In whose interest are the problems of Detroit to be solved? The crying need for solution is not debatable.Whodecides the solution andwhobenefits from the solution are profoundly debatable.

    Since World War II, the ruling class has increasingly responded to the...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Working Class Organization: The Role of the Union
    (pp. 249-285)

    The discussion of urban planning in the previous chapter has suggested that the plans to meet the urban crisis are the plans of the ruling class, not of the whole people. Indeed, it was suggested that these plans are specificallynotin the interest of the working class. The ruling class, despite being a tiny numerical minority in the Detroit area, is able to exercise such influence because it is highly organized—as aclass.The evidence presented earlier—of family ties, social organizations, civic functions, interlocking ownership and interlocking directorates—insures that the general class interests of the ruling...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN Conclusion: Political Alternatives
    (pp. 286-292)

    In the fall of 1974 General Motors announced national layoffs of approximately 6,000 workers in its plants, of whom 700 worked at its Willow Run plant in the Detroit area. Chrysler announced the probable closing of its Jefferson Assembly plant, which would make idle over 5,000 workers, all in the Detroit area. (Approximately 60% of the Jefferson workers live in the City of Detroit.) The murder rate in Detroit in the fall of 1974 was running 25% ahead of the previous year’s record toll. And Mayor Coleman Young, first black mayor of the city, had been able to accomplish virtually...

    (pp. 294-296)
    (pp. 297-306)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 307-312)