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Industrialization and Southern Society, 1877-1984

Industrialization and Southern Society, 1877-1984

Copyright Date: 1984
Edition: 1
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Industrialization and Southern Society, 1877-1984
    Book Description:

    In the 1880s, Southern boosters saw the growth of industry as the only means of escaping the poverty that engulfed the postbellum South. In the long run, however, as James C. Cobb demonstrates in this illuminating book, industrial development left much of the South's poverty unrelieved and often reinforced rather than undermined its conservative social and political philosophy. The exploitation of the South's resources, largely by interests from outside the region, was not only perpetuated but in many ways strengthened as industrialization proceeded. The 20th Century brought increasing competition for industry that favored management over labor and exploitation over protection of the environment. Even as the South blossomed into the "Sunbelt" in the late twentieth century, it is clear, Cobb argues, that the region had been unable to follow the path of development taken by the northern industrialized states, and that even an industrialized South has yet the escape the shadow of its deprived past.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4866-3
    Subjects: Economics, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Charles P. Roland
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    As the contemporary South basks in the glow of national fascination with the Sunbelt it is time to explore the social, political, and institutional impact of the development of industry in Dixie. Many observers assumed that the peculiarities which set the southern states apart from the rest of the nation could survive only so long as the South remained a rural, agricultural region. Thus industrialization seemed to pose a definite threat to the distinct and often controversial qualities that gave the South its identity. Twentieth-century scholars such as James W. Silver, who questioned the future of segregation and other controversial...

  6. 1. The Shaping of Southern Growth
    (pp. 5-26)

    The antebellum South is etched indelibly into the minds of most Americans as a land of plantation agriculture where industrialists were as rare as abolitionists and nearly as unwelcome. Both mythology and historical scholarship have focused so intensively on the plantation that relatively little attention has been given to the region’s industry during the period before the Civil War. The fact that manufacturing played a generally supportive but definitely subordinate role to agriculture in the Old South profoundly influenced not only the ill-fated crusade for southern political independence, but subsequent efforts to achieve economic independence as well. An examination of...

  7. 2. The Twentieth-Century South and the Campaign for New Industry
    (pp. 27-50)

    Although the emerging pattern of industrial development seemed largely compatible with the post-bellum South’s social and political hierarchy, a sizable industrial sector could not be created within a fundamentally agricultural society without engendering significant tensions. The agrarian uprisings of the 1880s and 1890s had posed enough of a threat to the region’s racial and class hierarchy to encourage the disfranchisement of most of its blacks and a good number of its lower-class whites. Even so, the creation of a white industrial working class, often laboring and living in unhealthy, frustrating, and degrading conditions, could not but raise concerns about the...

  8. 3. The Sunbelt South
    (pp. 51-67)

    William N. Parker has observed that “To bring the South … into the nation after the Civil War required not only a national policy of the scope of the New Deal … but also the assistance of massive jolts from physical, technological and extraneous market and political events.” His observation was no less correct for the Depression era, before New Deal farm programs reinforced the physical devastation caused by the boll weevil and facilitated the technological advances that paved the way for the mechanization and consolidation of southern agriculture. Although World War II did not immediately neutralize the South’s economic...

  9. 4. Life and Labor in the Industrializing South
    (pp. 68-98)

    Like the New South of the 1880s, the Sunbelt South of the 1980s continued to depend on cheap, relatively docile labor as its primary attraction to new industry. Critics correctly cited persistent interregional wage differentials as evidence of a century of labor exploitation, but for several generations of southern industrial workers it was also a century of slow but significant economic advancement.

    For most southerners who became industrial workers in the late nineteenth century, the move into the factory amounted to swapping the incessant poverty of sharecropping or red-dirt small farming for the dreary, often disappointing existence afforded by the...

  10. 5. Industrial Development and Reform in the Post-World War II South
    (pp. 99-120)

    Even in the Sunbelt era, most southern industries maintained their labor orientation, but much of the growth of the post-World War II period had resulted from the expansion of better-paying, faster-growing industries whose managers and executives expected more from a plant location than access to cheap labor. In order to attract investments from these more desirable firms, states and communities were expected to support social and political reforms as well as improvements in public facilities and institutions. Moreover, the managers and executives of these firms would presumably insist on continuing efforts to improve the quality of life at the local...

  11. 6. Natural and Environmental Resources and Industrial Development
    (pp. 121-135)

    John Prine’s description of the fate of his father’s hometown at the hands of stripminers was intended to muster public outrage against further destruction of the Appalachian environment. Yet the conflict between conservation and environmental protection on the one hand and the desire to stimulate the South’s economy and provide jobs for its impoverished masses on the other was seldom the clearcut, good-versus-evil struggle that Prine depicted.

    For most of the post-Reconstruction century industrialists and promoters of economic development assumed that the South’s natural resources were there for the taking. Cheap, abundant raw materials were a keystone of the New...

  12. 7. Why the New South Never Became the North: A Summary
    (pp. 136-164)

    Industrialization has brought many changes to the South, but skyscrapers, smokestacks, and industrial parks have not destroyed the region’s cultural distinctiveness, nor have they provided solutions to many of the problems traditionally associated with its historically underdeveloped economy. In fact, industrial development has not only failed to establish general prosperity but has left a large number of southerners mired in poverty.

    Despite a widespread perception of the Sunbelt South as a newly prosperous paradise, in terms of absolute statistics rather than growth momentum the South of the 1980s remained the nation’s number one economic problem. In 1980 only Texas had...

  13. Bibliographic Note
    (pp. 165-180)
  14. Index
    (pp. 181-185)