Historical Articles on the Plant Closing Movement, Industrial Retention Policies and Economic Development
thesisposted on 01.05.2020, 00:00 by Sara K O'Neill-Kohl
Economic restructuring presents ongoing challenges for economic development planners. In particular, the 1970s and 1980s are well known for the hardships that economic dislocations inflicted on industrial workers and their communities. Most scholarly and applied work invoking this period is grounded in a contemporary understanding of the inevitability of global economic change, and the limitations this presents for local economic development policy and practice. This dissertation takes a different approach. It maintains that we cannot understand the current boundaries of our discipline without first traveling back to a time before they were so firmly in place. Thus, the topic of this dissertation is a lesser known aspect of the deindustrialization story: how communities fought back. The “plant closing movement” was made up of coalitions of religious and community groups, unions, and progressive local officials that arose across the country in the 1970s and 1980s to resist and reverse industrial job loss, mobilizing both direct action and policy. The dissertation, a collection of three articles, asks how the successes and failures of the plant closing movement have shaped ongoing progressive efforts in economic development planning. Together, the articles reveal a story of the ideological restraint of policy alternatives. By directing attention to the process by which economic decisions are determined to be “public” or “private”, and how those decisions have changed over time, the work combats the notion that today’s formation of economic development is a natural or inevitable state.