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Industrial Sunset

Industrial Sunset: The Making of North America's Rust Belt, 1969-1984

Steven High
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    Industrial Sunset
    Book Description:

    A comparative regional analysis of the economic and cultural devastation caused by plant shutdowns in the Great Lakes Region, and an insightful examination of how mill and factory workers on both sides of the border made sense of their own displacement.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2090-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Economics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-17)

    A siren wailed twice. Two more blasts shattered the silence. A minute passed before the siren sounded the last warning. A voice crackled onto the loud speaker for the final countdown and the four old blast furnaces were lifted by a series of thuds before they fell crashing to the ground. A huge red plume of iron ore rose up, threatening to shower the crowd of onlookers who had come to witness the demolition of the Ohio Works in Youngstown. It was a spring day in 1982.¹

    Watching the explosion, spectators arrived at different conclusions. Charles Horne, vice-president of U.S....

  6. 1 Gold Doesn’t Rust: Regions of the North American Mind
    (pp. 18-40)

    Roger and Me, Michael Moore’s irreverent 1989 film documentary about corporate greed and the hollowness of the American Dream, propelled Flint, Michigan, into the North American limelight.¹ The fall of Moore’s hometown was a decidedly sharp one. To the upbeat music of the Beach Boys’ ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice,’ Moore showed his audience what Flint had become: a town of abandoned homes, vacant lots, boarded-up businesses, and empty streets. Interspersed with these scenes of urban decay were newspaper headlines announcing the closure of one General Motors plant after another. Moore’s technique of juxtaposing contrasting images produced a devastating indictment of...

  7. 2 Transplanted Identities
    (pp. 41-73)

    The cultural implications of deindustrialization surface repeatedly in the plant shutdown stories told by displaced industrial workers in Canada and the United States. In some cases, as in the above story told by a former steelworker from Buffalo, the sense of displacement was expressed by inverting the meaning of a familiar cultural symbol of loyalty and service. In others, workers experiencing joblessness for extended periods of time eventually came to identify with their displacement. All agreed, however, that the ordeal of having a plant go down was profoundly different from the layoffs, or down times, that have always been part...

  8. 3 Back to the Garden: Redesigning the Factory for a Post-industrial Era
    (pp. 74-91)

    In their juxtaposition of the old economy against the new, Manuel Castells and Peter Hall clearly prefer the latter. For them, the idyllic surroundings of Silicon Valley exemplify the triumph of post-industrialism over industrialism. The ascent of a new high-technology and service economy, and the simultaneous decline of an older manufacturing one, is widely interpreted to be as inevitable as sunrise and sunset. Left in the shadows, however, has been another dimension of industrial transformation: the emergence of a post-industrial aesthetic.²

    This post-industrial aesthetic was born out of deeply rooted environmental values and sensibilities. Historian Samuel P. Hayes has termed...

  9. 4 The Deindustrializing Heartland
    (pp. 92-130)

    Moving from the changing aesthetic of industry to its changing structure, this chapter reconsiders the sharp distinction sometimes drawn between plant closings and their relocation. While the ‘runaway plant’ – a term coined by trade unionists in the 1950s to describe the antiunion animus leading firms to relocate production – garnered considerable media attention in North America, planned obsolescence quietly claimed many other mills and factories, displacing millions. These two major catalysts for plant shutdown in Canada and the United States were, in fact, two sides of the same coin. In the face of growing global competition, corporate executives shifted...

  10. 5 In Defence of Local Community
    (pp. 131-166)

    A great debate has raged over the apparent passivity of American workers and their unions in the face of plant shutdowns and job loss. Many historians in the United States blame the business-as-usual attitude of trade union leaders¹ while others point to the ‘dejected acceptance’ that typified worker responses to plant closings.² Few would disagree with David Bensman and Roberta Lynch’s assertion that a ‘sense of the inevitable cloud[ed] all discussions about the industrial crisis’ that confronted the United States.³ Discourses of decline conveyed messages of ‘collective powerlessness,’ and their apparent inevitability acted to undermine a sense of collective moral...

  11. 6 ‘I’ll Wrap the F*#@ Canadian Flag around Me’: A Nationalist Response to Plant Shutdowns
    (pp. 167-191)

    Recent studies of trade union responses to plant closings and industrial restructuring during the 1970s and early 1980s have juxtaposed Canadian militancy against American passivity. The contrasting fortunes of the labour movements in Canada and the United States are perhaps best represented in the changing rates of unionization in the manufacturing sector. While the rates of unionization were comparable in the two countries during the 1950s and 1960s, this was no longer the case by the 1980s.¹ In 1986, Canada’s 41.6 per cent rate of unionization was nearly double that of the United States. The divergent paths taken by the...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 192-200)

    American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once stated that only myths had the motive power to effect political change.¹ For Niebuhr, hope was the product of emotion, not cold calculation. It was only natural, then, that opponents of plant closings appealed to the emotional bonds of local and national communities of identification as a political strategy designed to elicit cross-class identification and cooperation. Although a discourse of inevitability surrounded the process of industrial transformation, resistance was not futile. There were, however, definite limits to what people could hope to achieve.

    The emptying of the mythical heart of the United States – and...

  13. Appendix: INTERVIEW GUIDE
    (pp. 201-202)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 203-260)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-288)
  16. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 289-290)
  17. Index
    (pp. 291-306)