Two Sides to Everything

The Cultural Construction of Class Consciousness in Harlan County, Kentucky

By Shaunna L. Scott

Subjects: Sociology
Series: SUNY series in Oral and Public History
Paperback : 9780791423448, 259 pages, February 1995
Hardcover : 9780791423431, 259 pages, February 1995

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Table of contents

List of Tables and Figures

Foreword: Half-Truths and Good Intentions

1. Of Bellies and Hearts

2. Living through Experience

3. It's Good Not to Worry about Bills and Stuff

4. Knowing Who You Are

5. I Don't Know What Makes Them So Greedy

6. They Don't Have to Live by the Old Traditions

7. Dead Work

Afterword Conclusions, Reflections, and Second Thoughts

Subject Index
Name Index
Place Index

This is an ethnography and oral history of miners and their families in Kentucky focusing on political ideology and working class consciousness.


This is an oral history and ethnography of miners and their families in Kentucky focusing on political ideology and working class consciousness.

Harlan County, Kentucky emerged in the public eye during the 1930s when poverty, unemployment, and violent unionization struggles caught the attention of the national news media and the American people. It burst on the scene again during the 1972-73 Brookside strike, an event chronicled in the Academy Award-winning film, "Harlan County, U.S.A." In this book the author brings the American reader up to date on this interesting community by documenting the everyday lives of Harlan miners and their families in the mid-1980s.

Using a neo-Marxian perspective, Two Sides to Everything characterizes the nature, limitations, and transformative potential of class consciousness among two generations of Harlan miners. It also elucidates the apparent contradictions between popular images of central Appalachians, as militant labor activists, on one hand, and passive, traditional, fatalistic "hillbillies," on the other. The book accomplishes these tasks through a systematic consideration of the relationship between the central experiential bases and sources of identity among Harlan county miners—class, kinship, community, religion, and gender.

Shaunna L. Scott is Assistant Professor of Sociology and an Associate of The Appalachian Center at the University of Kentucky.


"This is passionate, exciting fieldwork. Scott has produced a very readable and interesting account of the consciousness of ordinary people in Harlan County in the 1980s. This story of the miner's movement is fascinating." — John Bodnar, Indiana University

"Scott's case studies illustrate the diversity of life in a manner which is enlightening and entertaining. She combines information about unionization, strikes and work with other facts of life particularly the family, the church and the role of women. This creative approach allows her to reinforce her thesis about diversity, complexity and dialectics which accords class the primary focus but leaves room for other factors, particularly gender." — Irwin M. Marcus, Indiana University of Pennsylvania