In the Wake of the Giant

Multinational Restructuring and Uneven Development in a New England Community

By Max H. Kirsch

Subjects: Industrial Sociology
Series: SUNY series in the Anthropology of Work
Paperback : 9780791438282, 146 pages, July 1998
Hardcover : 9780791438275, 146 pages, July 1998

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Table of contents

List of Tables



Part I Problems and Issues

1. The Chosen Community

The Community and its Setting

2. Community and Context

The Growth of the American City

3. Restructuring, Megaindustrialization, and the Expansion of the Service Sector

Megaindustrialization and Merger Movements

Constructing Consensus in Late Capitalism

Part II A New England Community in Crisis

4. The Region and Industry in History

Early Industrialization and New England Social Structure

Relations of Work and Unemployment

The Region after World War II

Trade Union Erosion

Notes on the Service Sector

5. The Pittsfield Community

Early Industry in Pittsfield

General Electric and the Growth of a Company Town

Industrial Decline and the Issue of Development

Community Effects of Economic Restructuring

Voluntary Associations, Community Organization, and Corporate Morality

The Corporation and the Community

6. Development Strategies

Defining Development

Development Agencies

Development Perspectives

The Production of Chaos

Development and Ideologies of Economic Growth

Native versus Nonnative Views of Development

Uneven Development and Relations of Dependency

The General Electric Donation

Bypasses and Parking Lots

Mall Wars

Ideology and Community Crisis

7. Uneven Development and Community Response

Platics Firms and Uneven Development

Kinship, Friendship, and the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Firm Ownership and Relations of Work

General Electric Plastics

Development Efforts and the Plastics Industry

Corporate and Community Ideology in the Development of Industry

8. Economic Development and Social Responsibility: A Case Study

The Health Crisis in Pittsfield

The Cost Accounting Approach

Community Response and Corporate Responsibility

The Social Construction of Science

The Structure of Health Administration in Pittsfield





Contrasting "native" and "outsider" points of view, this book explores the contemporary realities of work, development and redevelopment in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a New England community undergoing rapid industrial restructuring.


Based on anthropological fieldwork in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, In the Wake of the Giant has implications for towns and cities across the country and internationally. It traces the history of the Pittsfield region, the U. S. economy, and the tidal wave of multinational corporate restructurings. Comparing communities undergoing restructuring to newly independent states, Kirsch shows how these communities confront for the first time the challenge of directing their own present and future. The turmoil that develops as a result of these changes, and the means by which individuals, kin-groups and community voluntary organizations react and adapt are central themes of the book.

Max H. Kirsch teaches anthropology at Oberlin College. He is past Associate Dean of the Graduate Faculty of Social and Political Science at the New School for Social Research in New York.


"In the Wake of the Giant is a remarkable book. Much of the anthropology now being done has fallen into the trap of a less thoughtful postmodernism—concentrating more on textuality and the emotional states of individuals, without any realization that these secondary states are derived from historical and economic, as well as linguistic and psychical processes. Kirsch manages to combine the historical and economic with the individual perspectives brilliantly.

"One of the outstanding features of the book is its readable style. It is very well-written, with an excellent narrative feel. " — Richard Feldstein, Rhode Island College