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Fighting King CoalThe Challenges to Micromobilization in Central Appalachia$
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Shannon Elizabeth Bell

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034340

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034340.001.0001

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Depletion of Social Capital in Coalfield Communities1

Depletion of Social Capital in Coalfield Communities1

Chapter:
(p.49) 3 Depletion of Social Capital in Coalfield Communities1
Source:
Fighting King Coal
Author(s):

Shannon Elizabeth Bell

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262034340.003.0004

Chapter 3 begins with a description of how the dimensions of social capital–network ties, trust, and shared social norms–are critical to the generation of solidarity, the first of the necessary micro-level factors affecting an individual’s propensity to participate in a social movement. This chapter presents an interview and participant observation study that was conducted in a coal-mining town and a demographically similar non-coal-mining town in West Virginia to examine social capital losses in coalfield communities. The analysis suggests that the causes of the coalfield town’s social capital deficit include extensive depopulation and conflicts related to the de-unionization of coal mines in the region. Due to the fact that both of these processes have been widespread throughout Central Appalachia over the past three decades, it is likely that this social capital depletion can be generalized to other coalfield communities. The chapter ultimately argues that the destruction of social capital in Appalachian coal-mining communities is part of the story explaining the low levels of local involvement in the coalfield environmental justice movement.

Keywords:   Social capital, Solidarity, Participant observation, Interviews, Coal-mining town, Coalfields, Depopulation, De-unionization, Coal mines, Appalachia

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