Coal power: Class, fetishism, memory, and disjuncture in Romania’s Jiu Valley and Appalachian West Virginia

David A. Kideckel


This essay compares the social disjuncture of coal’s decline in Romania's Jiu Valley and southern West Virginia/Appalachia. In both regions coal is fetishized, concentrating belief and creating a paradigm of meaning. But when fetishes lose power, social dislocation results. Coal's decline is often thought to produce common conditions in former coal regions. However, we suggest four factors shape regional variation: 1) political economy of class and industrial control; 2) state power over mining; 3) extent and diversity of non-governmental organizations related to the industrial control system; and 4) gender activism, emerging from political economy. We examine social conditions, coal memory, and nostalgia related to the above. In the Jiu Valley, there is a weakening of organization, coal nostalgia, as well as decline in coal-related disjuncture with existing conflict now largely a province of regional elites. In West Virginia, however, a weak state, active organizational environment, and women's activism produce conflict between coal supporters and detractors. These circumstances also influence the regions’ futures. Jiu Valley people are protected by state intervention, but this weakens class identity and the intensity of change efforts. In Appalachia the tensioned organizational environment perpetuates conflict but creates an intensity toward the future.   

Full Text:





  • There are currently no refbacks.