Capitalism and Class Formation in the Angers Slate Fields, 1750-1891
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The wave of working-class radicalism that swept across France at the turn of the twentieth century has largely been attributed by historians to the pressures of industrialization undermining traditional methods and organizations of labor. However, the Angers slate mining industry experienced a very stable production process from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries limited as much by the environment as by the economy. Working-class formation here instead must be understood in contradistinction to capitalist-class formation coming in response to those same economic and environment factors. The steady growth of an entrepreneurial class in the slate mines around Angers, France, took place within a legal and social framework that allowed mine investors to begin associating and identifying as a class distinct from their workers. It was against this capitalist-class formation that workers began organizing in order to preserve the social organizations and independence they had enjoyed in the pre-capitalist era.