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Winning or Losing? German Pit Closure and the Ambiguities of Memory

Stefan Moitra

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The history of the West German coal mining industry since the late 1950s can be seen as a story of industrial decline and at the same time as a success story for a corporatist politics of “social responsibility”. The mining trade union together with the state and the companies all participated in sustaining a mode of shrinkage that allowed to avoid sudden mass unemployment and keep up a slow fading of the industry over six decades. This process, however, was a matter of constant re-negotiation. Calling on the principle of social responsibility constituted a crucial element in the moral economy of industrial decline. Yet the state’s structural and financial support for the mining communities went along with changing work environments and increased pressures for the mine workers. This article juxtaposes the memories of shop stewards, trade union officials and other workers’ representatives who had to negotiate such terms of industrial change with the narratives of mine workers and employees subjected to these measures. It asks for the extent to which the narratives and interpretations of mine closure overlap or differ for these two memory collectives.


Bibliographie: Moitra, Stefan: Winning or Losing? German Pit Closure and the Ambiguities of Memory, BIOS – Zeitschrift für Biographieforschung, Oral History und Lebensverlaufsanalysen, 2-2018, S. 37-52.