By taking such a position, Couvares gives the impression that there is a certain inevitably to the process of industrialization itself. Once the industrialization process is underway, its effects seem to be unstoppable. At the same time, there were in Pittsburgh certain cultural and political realities which accelerated the process of industrialization once it commenced.
The book begins with the railroad workers' strike in 1877 against the Pennsylvania Railroad. The strike is portrayed as popular not only among the workers themselves, but among all the working class people in the city. The railroad was seen as the clear culprit in the dispute, and the workers the victims whose needs had been systematically ignored or trampled by the railroad. The balance of power in the dispute was significantly on the side of the workers.
As Couvares notes in the final chapters, by the end of the second decade of the 20th century, the shift in power was remarkable. Immigrants had altered the population mix in the interceding decades, and though they were increasingly involved in action against the repression of the steel corporations, they were no match for the power of the corporation in their strike efforts.
Couvares clearly believes that the increasing number of immigrants in the ranks of steelworkers was an important factor in the repression of those workers in the second decade of the century. Couvar