Rusted dreams : hard times in a steel community /

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Main Author: Bensman, David, 1949-
Other Authors: Lynch, Roberta.
Format: Book
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Review by Choice Review

For a brief moment during the 1984 US presidential campaign the question of whether the nation should formulate a comprehensive industrial policy came before the public. This study of the impact of the decline of the basic steel industry on southeast Chicago indicates that the need for such a debate is as important today as it was three years ago. Although the sudden shutting down of a mill or office in a particular community is a traumatic experience for all involved, it is the long-term effects of such closings that most concern the authors. Prolonged joblessness eats into the fabric of life of even the most cohesive neighborhoods. Marriages shatter, illness and suicides increase, retailers shut their doors, and pessimism pervades all aspects of community life. Workers grasp at the most meager hope that their factories will reopen. Even in the midst of ``rusted dreams,'' however, new possibilities spring up as people search out ways to resist the tides of decay and demoralization. While many policymakers may take issue with the authors' analysis of the decline of the steel industry or their agenda for future action, they will not be able to refute its account of the human costs of corporate decision making. Should be read in conjunction with Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison's The Deindustrialization of America (CH, Apr '83) and Richard McKenzie's Fugitive Industry: The Economics and Politics of Deindustrialization (CH, Sep '84). An important book that deserves attention from both specialists and the general public. Academic and public library collections.-H. Harris, Pennsylvania State University, New Kensington Campus

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

How the Rust Belt got that way, and the consequences for the nation as microcosmed by what happened to South Chicago when the steel mills closed. South Chicago, almost as much as Pittsburgh, could lay fair claim to being one of America's steel centers. From 1880 on, steel was the community's core, its economic, social, emotional and spiritual heart. Three, even four generations from the same families knew no other way of life--or source of income. Then the dream seemed to shatter as mismanagement, union avarice, foreign competition, recession and, perhaps, not a small measure of lassitude, combined to do in the mills and a way of life. Beyond detailing what unemployment has done to South Chicago in human terms (suicide, divorce, alcoholism, the malignant loss of self-esteem of workers unable to find any jobs), Bensman and Lynch examine the decisions made in faraway executive suites that helped to precipitate the closings. Executives of both management and labor, answering to antagonistic constituencies that, too late, realized they shared common objectives, postured, threatened and eventually reached positions where they could not bring back the jobs. Aging plants were halfway modernized, then abandoned; facilities were upgraded to make products no one wanted to buy; environmental upgrades sapped too much capital, and South Chicago saw its lifeblood hemorrhaging. Bensman and Lynch do a fine job of assembling and explaining both the individual and communal failings that have laid South Chicago--and the nation's industrial heartland--low. They're not sanguine about its revival either. In their concluding section, they set forth a plan for rebuilding the steel industry, but with its massive doses of government intervention (the American steel industry, they contend, is the only one in the world expected to compete in a free marketplace) that flies in the face of Reagan Administration doctrine, their conceit seems politically unworkable for some time to come. A penetrating and thoughtful analysis of a dilemma that will be long with us. At times, it is achingly acute. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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