Order the spring issue here

After the industry is the industry

The Deindustrialized World. Confronting Ruination in Postindustrial Places
The Deindustrialized World analyzes the consequences of the factory and mine closures that have taken place in the West since the 1960 years. 


titlen The Deindustrialized World. Confronting Ruination in Postindustrial Places does not necessarily promise an analysis of the whole world; the place can be understood more delineated as anyones world. In the case of this anthology, these "somebody" are primarily white, male manual workers, and their world is the manufacturing and raw material industry that has been running in Europe and North America over the last half century.

It is the result of an economic development that is often described in abstract terms and is typically divided into two narratives: the nostalgic one, which focuses on the loss of jobs and the depreciation of a particular form of work (culture) or the notion of it, and the optimistic, focusing on the environmental benefits when polluting factories and mines close down.

However, the socio-diagnostic abstractions rarely go into depth with the very concrete ways in which development has impacted people's lives and worlds of life for generations. American historian Judith Stein has criticized the ecologically oriented narrative as an expression of middle-class blindness to the pain of industrialization inflicted on manual workers. The consequences for the people who lived and worked in the now closed industrial workplaces in the West are just what The Deindustrialized World focus on.

Pittsburgh's "post steel future" meant that the chimneys were replaced by skyscrapers – but where did the steel for these new buildings come from?

"Deindustrialisation." I even remember when my friend's father became unemployed after the closure of the large Burmeister & Wain Shipyard in Copenhagen, and how the heavy, sweet smell from the factories in the Northwest Quarter disappeared during the 1980s and '90s. In Frederiksberg, the "plate ladies" – whose professional organization was talked about with awe in my childhood – were replaced by management teachers in 2005, when Copenhagen Business School took over Royal Copenhagen's old factory buildings after porcelain production had moved to the suburb of Glostrup and to Thailand.

For several of the contributors i The Deindustrialized World it is their personal experience of the so-called de-industrialization that has led them to study the phenomenon. The great strength of the book is that it zooms in on the conditions of living in a time of economic restructuring. The book's major weakness is that none of the many impacts in Canada, the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Australia in the period from 1950 to the early 2000s are interested in living life in the places where the industry moved. In most cases it did not disappear.

Not closed, just moved. The analyzes of the anthology span several forms of deindustrialization. The struggle for who and what has a place in local history after the fall of the Moulinex Empire in France in 2001; British miners' grief – and joy – at the completion of some of the dirtiest jobs imaginable; the major health consequences of coke burning which first began to emerge in connection with the closure of the Sydney Steel Corporation in Canada; urban planners' luck with the transformation of the US city of Pittsburgh's economy as the manufacturing and steel industries moved away, and why similar plans were unsuccessful in Hamilton, Ontario, undergoing a nearly identical process.

A former Durham miner says the bar at the local pub was called "Death Row." 

In some places, the industrial settlement created space for, for example, mining and coke workers began to claim compensation for the diseases and damage that the dirty work had inflicted on them. A former Durham miner says the bar in the local pub was called "Death Row."

"When you came in, there were a number, and there used to be ten miners ... and you saw it go from ten to nine, eight, seven – and it was all, in general, mineral-related injuries and illnesses there killed them. And you can see those lucky enough to be alive, but they can't get the words out, they can't breathe properly ... so there you can see the legacy of the mine. You can understand what anger we feel. "

That kind of experience is a timely reminder of the harsh conditions workers have until recently had in the dirtiest parts of the industry in countries such as the United Kingdom. However, it would have strengthened the anthology if these stories from the West had been related to the current conditions of workers in the mining and manufacturing industries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

Even in those cases where concrete companies did not move but instead closed and switched off, it was not necessarily because demand for their goods and raw materials ceased; it was because they could be produced and extracted cheaper elsewhere. For example, Pittsburgh's "post steel future" meant that the chimneys were replaced by skyscrapers – but where did the steel for these new buildings come from? It would have been interesting to join.

The industry continues. In that sense, the title The Deindustrialized World misleading, even if "world" is understood as "someone's world" and not "whole world". Without global and translocal reach, both the "loss of jobs" perspective and the eco-optimistic interpretation of so-called de-industrialization become meaningless.

The title is also misleading in another sense, as several of the contributions, in turn, explicitly discuss: The forms of work in those parts of the economy that replaced the manufacturing and mining industries in the West have begun to exhibit similar characteristics: standardization, mechanization and health risks today both the service and knowledge industries.

Without a global and translocal perspective, both the "loss of jobs" – and the eco-optimistic narrative of so-called de-industrialization become useless.

Cathy Stanton argues in the chapter "Keeping 'the Industrial'. New Solidarities in Postindustrial Places » to rethink the whole "industrialization-de-industrialization-post-industry" narrative because it "obscures the continued development of industrial capitalism" and thus makes it more difficult to "understand its course and combat its most insidious and divisive effects".

"What if, instead, we considered the possibility that while capital flight, factory closures and economic restructuring have obviously taken place in many parts of the world, there has never been anything called" industrialization "." Such a perspective may have been unthinkable both emotionally and intellectually, Stanton writes, during "the most painful decades of economic restructuring." But that is a perspective that should be explored now, she believes, "not because we and the places and people we study have" progressed ", but precisely because we are not should get on – because it's actually far from over. "

Nina Trige Andersen
Nina Trige Andersen
Trige Andersen is a freelance journalist and historian.

You may also like