Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The development of industrial capitalism requires the emergence of a class of propertyless wage laborers and a class of capital investors. My goal in this dissertation has been to provide a concrete historical examination of various factors which helped give impetus and shape to this class relation in selected eastern Kentucky counties from 1870-1930.
After a theoretical chapter which outlines a framework for class analysis, the study is divided into two parts.The first part considers several factors which helped give impetus to the development of a capitalist mode of production. Attention centers upon 1) the policies of Kentucky politicians toward the issues of labor scarcity and how to best attract capital for economic improvement and 2) a concrete examination of patterns of capital investments in several counties. The main thrust in this section is that activities carried out by agents of capital and the state combined to play a fundamental role in the spring of class relations in the area. This section concludes with a statistical analysis of the growth of a working class.
The second part of the dissertation offers a more detailed look at the formation of class relations in the region's dominant industry -- coal. Attention focuses upon 1) conflicting interpretations of living and working conditions by agents of capital and labor and 2) the institutional and ideological supports to class reproduction and capitaIist hegemony. Special attention is given to the role of the state, monopolistic patterns of resource ownership, company towns, and single-industry labor markets as key factors which helped shape the class structure in Eastern Kentucky.
The data in the study suggest several conclusions. First, the importance of transcending individual-level explanations of the "Appalachian situation" is underscored. While undoubtedly important the ideas and conclusions of cultural theorists need to be placed in a structural context; that is, the links between, the structure of class and the problems of everyday living in Central Appalachia need to be adequately understood. Second, modernization and other theories which assume the efficacy of a free market cannot provide a realistic explanation because they cannot focus upon the repressive character that labor relations often manifest. Third, analysis of the coal industry underlines,the importance of studying class development from a regional standpoint but within a national context. Finally, the data suggest that the researcher beware of interpretations of Central Appalachia which emphasize it as a 'unique' region. There may be some basis for examining the area as a special case of rural industrial development as even today Eastern Kentucky is perhaps the most densely populated industrial rural area in the United States. But, Eastern Kentucky in general and the coal counties in particular emerged in the context of national capitalist developments.
Banks, Alan J., "Labor and the Development of Industrial Capitalism in Eastern Kentucky, 1870-1930" (1980). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3249.