This is a study of the U.S. steel industry and its impact on the quality of life and the range of alternatives available to the American citizenry. It is an analysis of corporate efforts to further rationalize the processes of private production and the effect these efforts have on our lives.1 The sharp contrast between increasing corporate control of society's alternatives and the decline of the quality of contemporary life raises the pressing issue of the possibility of attaining a meaningful level of democracy in contemporary American society. The steel industry, which functions at the heart of the U.S. economic and political systems, serves as a laboratory to raise questions concerning the location and exercise of power in the United States. This is especially true during times of crisis, and, as the nation's many unemployed steelworkers would agree, U.S. steel is, indeed, hard pressed. Ceaseless rounds of plant closings thrusting tens of thousands of workers into the ranks of the unemployed are the most visible manifestation of steel's economic woes. The gradual ebbing of legal rules and the accompanying rise of the administrative state represent a more subtle side of steel's demise. This work analyzes the causes underlying the dismantling of the U.S. steel industry and the impact of steel's decline on our institutions of procedural democracy.
Two themes run throughout this study. The first focuses on the close relationship between steel's economic demise and a social order grounded in the private ownership of the means of production. Briefly put, following World War II the United States' integrated steel producers, motivated by their international productive hegemony and declining levels of competition at home, pursued short-term profitmaximizing policies which contributed to the eventual loss of the industry's international productive edge and opened the U.S. market to inexpensive imports. Private steel firms responded to the challenge of imports by turning to the political state for assistance. But this only further encouraged the industry's demise. For the public policy options realized by steel were symptomatic; they never resolved the industry's most fundamental problem-its declining productive edge in an increasingly competitive international environment. Instead, government policy gave giant steel corporations the much needed time to direct their investment programs into more profitable ventures outside