Title page for ETD etd-08262008-224810

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Wrenn, Corey Lee
Author's Email Address cowrenn@vt.edu
URN etd-08262008-224810
Title Powerlessness and Pollution in Alleghany County, Virginia: A Historical Analysis of Paternalism and Economic Coercion in Appalachia and its Relationship with Environmental Degradation
Degree Master of Science
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Calasanti, Toni M. Committee Co-Chair
Smith, Barbara Ellen Committee Co-Chair
Riden, Carl Committee Member
  • paternalism
  • unionism
  • labor relations
  • environment
  • Appalachia
  • economic dependence
  • economic coercion
Date of Defense 2008-08-06
Availability unrestricted
Alleghany County, an extractive community, has depended heavily upon a single paper mill known as MeadWestvaco for over a century. The purpose of this study is to explore the degree to which MeadWestvaco utilizes paternalism and economic coercion as forms of power to control and maintain community quiescence regarding the company’s negative environmental impact in Alleghany County. This paper mill has negatively affected Alleghany County relative to other Virginia communities. However, there has been very little local action against the paper mill’s environmental impact. To define and recognize paternalism and economic coercion, I undertake a historical analysis of the cotton textile industry of the Southern Piedmont and coal mining industry of Southern Appalachia, where these systems of power have been documented. In applying the indicators of paternalism and economic coercion found in these nearby Southern industries to Alleghany County, Virginia, I find that MeadWestvaco utilizes both strategies to some degree to control and influence community awareness of and response to the company’s environmental damage.
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