Ben Marley

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Tod Rutherford


Coal, Environment, Labor, Political Economy, West Virginia

Subject Categories

Geography | History | Sociology


The coalfields of southern West Virginia have faced recurring crises linked to its regional political economy. Today's crisis is constituted by the decimation on the United Mine Workers of America and the greater use of mountaintop removal coal mining in conjunction with policies and market conditions. This thesis argues that crisis in southern West Virginia's coalfields, like previous crises, will mean the reorganization of human and extra-human natures in which social movements along with economic conditions play an integral role in transcending the crisis. Tracing the history of crises in southern West Virginia's coalfields and interviewing retired coal miners, community members, and environmental activists I examine how the current crisis is different than previous crises. Utilizing James O'Connor's theory of second contradiction of capitalism and Jason Moore's world-ecological perspective, I geographically and historically situate a case study of southern West Virginia's coalfields with the intention of bridging large-scale theories and empirical studies. I conclude that large-scale theories such as these can better help understand the complexity of local crises that informs broader understandings of the ways in which capitalism emerges and develops through crisis.