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Company Towns in the Americas

Landscape, Power, and Working-Class Communities

Oliver J. Dinius

Publication Year: 2011

Company towns were the spatial manifestation of a social ideology and an economic rationale. The contributors to this volume show how national politics, social protest, and local culture transformed those founding ideologies by examining the histories of company towns in six countries: Argentina (Firmat), Brazil (Volta Redonda, Santos, Fordlândia), Canada (Sudbury), Chile (El Salvador), Mexico (Santa Rosa, Río Blanco), and the United States (Anaconda, Kellogg, and Sunflower City).
Company towns across the Americas played similar economic and social roles. They advanced the frontiers of industrial capitalism and became powerful symbols of modernity. They expanded national economies by supporting extractive industries on thinly settled frontiers and, as a result, brought more land, natural resources, and people under the control of corporations. U.S. multinational companies exported ideas about work discipline, race, and gender to Latin America as they established company towns there to extend their economic reach. Employers indeed shaped social relations in these company towns through education, welfare, and leisure programs, but these essays also show how working-class communities reshaped these programs to serve their needs.
The editors’ introduction and a theoretical essay by labor geographer Andrew Herod provide the context for the case studies and illuminate how the company town serves as a window into both the comparative and transnational histories of labor under industrial capitalism.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

Interdisciplinary, collaborative, transnational -- for some time now scholars from across the academy have called for work that takes these concepts seriously. Company Towns in the Americas is a rare collective work that heeds this call and provides the reader with a group of truly collaborative, transnational, ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

In the five years that this book has been in the making, we have received the support and encouragement of many colleagues and institutions. It all began with a panel at the annual conference of the American Historical Association in January 2005, when Marshall Eakin, the discussant, suggested that we ...

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"Company Towns in the Americas: An Introduction"

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pp. 1-20

The company town, a planned community owned or controlled by a single company, has symbolized the power of industrial capitalism to exploit natural resources and transform society both in its vast ambition and its remarkable futility. It has represented the ambitions of industrialists and social reformers ...

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CHAPTER 1 "Social Engineering through Spatial Engineering: Company Towns and the Geographical Imagination"

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pp. 21-44

Company towns are the product of their designers' hope that shaping the built environment in particular ways will allow them to further their political, economic, and cultural goals, whether these be exerting greater control over their labor force, ensuring the development of particular types of industrial ...

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CHAPTER 2 "From Company Towns to Union Towns: Textile Workers and the Revolutionary State in Mexico"

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pp. 45-67

Company towns have existed throughout the world where profitable business opportunities have required the locating of people in isolated and unpopulated areas. Because it is costly to relocate workers and provide their living facilities, this only happens when the nature of the business involves the exploitation ...

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CHAPTER 3 "The Port and the City of Santos: A Century-Long Duality"

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pp. 68-90

On the eve of World War I, the city of Santos was known as the "Brazilian Barcelona" because of the uncontested hegemony of anarchists in the local labor movement. Between World War II and the military coup in 1964, Santos became known as the "Brazilian Moscow" and its harbor as the "Red Port" because of the strong ...

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CHAPTER 4 "Whitened and Enlightened: The Ford Motor Company and Racial Engineering in the Brazilian Amazon"

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pp. 91-110

A look at the world of the Ford Motor Company in the decades after World War I reveals just how thoroughly the company had been able to create what it described as an "empire." The war had, of course, played a massive role in this, spreading not just Ford's products and production methods across the globe, but also ...

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CHAPTER 5 "The Making of a Federal Company Town: Sunflower Village, Kansas"

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pp. 111-133

Company towns in the United States in the twentieth century possessed the same fundamental purpose as others throughout the Americas: to keep workers near their jobs so as to maximize labor-cost effectiveness. As with company towns elsewhere, they exhibited tight mechanisms of social control and provided only limited ...

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CHAPTER 6 "Glory Days No More: Catholic Paternalism and Labor Relations in Brazil's Steel City"

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pp. 134-157

Dom Agnelo's letter refers to the "work" of constructing a steel mill and a company town in Volta Redonda in the interior of Rio de Janeiro state. The Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (csn; National Steel Company), a state- administered enterprise created by Getulio Vargas's Estado Novo government in 1941, ...

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CHAPTER 7 "Borders, Gender, and Labor: Canadian and U.S. Mining Towns during the Cold War Era"

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pp. 158-177

The isolated and scattered mining communities that stretch from the U.S. Rockies across Canada may not meet the standard definition of "company towns" -- because since the 1940s individuals, not the mining companies, have largely owned local housing and businesses. But the underlying aspect of corporate control links ...

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CHAPTER 8 "El Salvador: A Modern Company Town in the Chilean Andes"

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pp. 178-197

This chapter analyzes the social, urban, and architectonical characteristics of El Salvador, a company town built by the Andes Mining Copper Company in the Chilean Andes in the late 1950s. A U.S. company subsidiary of the Anaconda Copper Company -- one of the three largest copper producers at the time ...

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CHAPTER 9 "Labor and Community in Postwar Argentina: The Industry of Agricultural Machinery in Firmat, Santa Fe"

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pp. 198-220

In 1949, Roque Vassalli, a self-made man and son of Italian immigrants, opened the first factory of agricultural machinery in Firmat, a small town of about eight thousand people located in the southern part of the Santa Fe province. This chapter explores the history of Vassalli Metallurgical Factory and its impact on ...

Selected Bibliography on Company Towns in the Americas

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pp. 221-228

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pp. 229-232

Oliver J. Dinius is Croft Associate Professor of History and International Studies at the University of Mississippi. His research focuses on the social and economic history of twentieth-century Brazil. Stanford University Press is publishing his book entitled ...


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pp. 233-241

E-ISBN-13: 9780820337555
E-ISBN-10: 0820337552
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820333298
Print-ISBN-10: 0820333298

Page Count: 236
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation