Date of Award

Winter 1988

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Bud B Khleif


The case of the development of the American steel industry from 1865-1929 is used in a socio-historical analysis of factory closures in order to critically address the theory of deindustrialization, influential in much current sociological work, developed by writers such as Bluestone and Harrison (1982). The historiography of the steel industry is analyzed in order to examine the role of factory closures in the formation and disformation of the nation's basic capacity to produce by comparing the course of steel industry development from Reconstruction through the first thirty years of the twentieth century to that following the Second World War, especially the development of the industry subsequent to 1970--the so-called "deindustrialization wave." This approach is intended to overcome problems associated with the limited historical scope characteristic of current literature on deindustrialization.

By focusing on the transition from iron to steel production in the domestic context, the Homestead Strike of 1892, the formation of the United States Steel Corporation in 1901, and the rise of steel producing centers like Youngstown, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana, as well as by analyzing national economic policy, e.g., protectionism, and community case studies, several conclusions are reached. Factory closures are found to have played an important role in both development and dismantling of the domestic steel industry so that the contemporary nature of factory closures is found not to reflect an aberration of an otherwise healthy accumulation process specific to the current era. Since factory closures play essentially the same role in industrialization and deindustrialization, it is suggested that such events are better understood within the process of the reproduction of capitalist society as firms act to re-create the social conditions--i.e., class and market relations--under which capital accumulation is possible. Specifically, factory closures historically enter: (1) the cycle of labor control as events which re-create the conditions under which labor-power is bought and sold, (2) the cycle of capitalist competition as capitalists compete for control over production and markets, and (3) the organization of geographic space in a way which facilitates capital accumulation.