ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT QUARTERLY / November 2001
viewpoint back to the region and show how this production system structure might appear if one looked outward.
THE CENTRALITY OF CLASS STRUGGLE
For Harrison, the structural antagonism between capital and labor is a central determinant of regional dynamics. This antagonism comes directly from Marxism and is arguably the single most profound distinction between a Marxist or critical approach and a neoclassical approach that posits the relative harmony of interests of owners of capital and labor power. Harrison’s emphasis on class politics is almost singular in the recent American regional literature.
In Harrison’s (1984) interpretation of New England’s regional dynamics, for instance, he con- tinually stresses “the struggles of working people to improve their living conditions through direct action, unions, and participation in electoral politics” (p. 51). His account explained that capital flight was not simply a response to lower wages elsewhere, but to militant and successful labor organizing, not just in unions, but at the state and municipal levels. He reminds us that many indus- trial cities—Lynn and Haverhill, Massachusetts, and Norwalk and Bridgeport, Connecticut—had Socialist mayors and that these victories led to innovations in unemployment insurance and wel- fare programs at the regional level (p. 54). Among four factors explaining New England’s resur- gence—recreation of a tractable labor supply, the availability of finance capital, new infrastruc- ture, and active promotion of economic development by local governments—Harrison stressed the first:
I honestly believe that the “labor factor” is of paramount importance—precisely because it is so much more than a factor of production. (p. 64)
Harrison’s placement of class conflict at the center of his analysis enabled him to anticipate the future of the capital/ labor relationship and its impact on regional growth.
Harrison’s placement of class conflict at the center of his analysis enabled him to anticipate the future of the capital/labor relationship and its impact on regional growth. In 1984, he forecast, cor- rectly, the decline of labor militancy and the displacement of class conflict from the workplace and into neighborhoods, suburban tract developments, and state capitals. In his work with Bluestone (Bluestone & Harrison, 1982), such conflict was framed as “Capital Versus Communities,” the title of one of the reports from a project commissioned in 1979 by a coalition of trade unions and com- munity organizations concerned with the causes and consequences of plant closings all across the United States (p. 9).
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN A POLITICAL CONTEXT
Much of the recent new regionalism and new economic geography scholarship is surprisingly devoid of concrete planning and economic development counsel. Even when its proponents pre- scribe, they do so in a way that abstracts from the messy real world politics of place. Harrison’s regional work was extraordinarily skillful and nuanced, a product of his ongoing work with pro- gressive politicians, labor, and community groups.
Harrison’s earliest work on New England, the 1974 study “Economic Development in Massa- chusetts” (1988), was commissioned by State Senator Alan McKinnon, “a friend of labor and one of the most powerful members of the legislature as co-chairman of the Joint Commerce and Labor Committee” (Lampe, 1988, p. 74). The study critiqued the conventional wisdom about Massachu- setts’s slow growth and high unemployment problem (high cost of doing business, government as antibusiness, the priority placed on industrial versus service development, and poorly motivated workers) and instead concluded that the causes are too many low-wage and unstable jobs, too little development capital, and virtually nonexistent economic planning in state government (p. 81). Harrison presented a six-point program for economic development: public investment in infra- structure, upgrading low-wage jobs, more carefully planned and visible manpower training,