The Feudal Society Of Matewan Essay

1019 words - 5 pages

The Feudal Society of Matewan

The Stone Mountain Coal Company wielded monopoly control over the town of Matewan through a feudal system of economic, cultural, political, and environmental processes. Every person in the town of Matewan came under the power of the company in one way or another. The employees of Stone Mountain were under a bondage contract with the company. Once they came to the company it was impossible to leave and at the same time maintain a basic standard of living. They could not leave also because once they signed on with the company they owed the company a large sum of money for everything ranging from the ticket for the train that brought them to Matewan to ...view middle of the document...

The Stone Mountain Coal company kept economic control through political processes which served to punish behavior unfavorable to the company. The company sent in agents from Baldwin-Felts to act as the feudal managers or Knights who intimidated the people and infiltrated the new union. They also maintained their control over the citizens by wielding their power to evict people from the only homes they had, real estate owned by Stone Mountain, and by demanding immediate payment of debts owed them. Nearly everyone in town worked for the company though and every worker was put in debt to the company. So the people of Matewan were under the legal bondage of the Stone Mountain Coal Company, like indentured servants except that the term of their employment was indefinite. The company maintained the employee salaries at just the point needed to keep them in poverty and unable to save any money that they might use to pay off their debts and ultimately leave the company. Even if they had been able to save though they would not have been able to spend their money anywhere other than in the company stores in Matewan. At the beginning of the movie, one worker tells another how (because they are all in debt to the company) any employee who tried to leave the company could be "shot for a thief".

The company controlled cultural processes in Matewan as well. The church, led by a company loyal minister, was the main institution in town responsible for the creation and transfer of knowledge. By controlling the cultural processes in Matewan, they maintained economic and political control as well. The minister for example unabashedly preached anti-union sermons to the congregation. They also had other ways of controlling the cultural processes in Matewan. Because the company had taken a large portion of land from the "hill people", those people had to move further back into the woods of the region. The Matewan citizens believed that these people were dangerous but though they did...

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