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Deindustrialization, Social Disintegration, and Health: A Neoclassical Sociological Approach

>> Read paper published in the Journal of Theory and Society

Deindustrialization is a major burden on workers’ health in many countries, calling for theoretically informed sociological analysis. Here, we present a novel neoclassical sociological synthesis of the lived experience of deindustrialization. We conceptualize industry as a social institution whose disintegration has widespread implications for the social fabric. Combining Durkheimian and Marxian categories, we show that deindustrialization generates ruptures in economic production, which entail job and income loss, increased exploitation, social inequality, and the disruption of services. These ruptures spill over to the field of social reproduction, generating material deprivation, job strain, fatalism, increased domestic workload, anomie, community disintegration, and alienation. These ruptures in social reproduction are sources of psychosocial stress, through which deindustrialization gets embodied as ill health and dysfunctional health behavior. We substantiate this framework through the extensive qualitative thematic analysis of 82 life history interviews in Hungary’s rust belt.

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