The Political Economy of Raw Materials Transport from Internal Periphery to Core in the Early 20th Century US: The Calumet & Hecla Copper Companys Struggle for Market Access, 192239

Jonathan Leitner


The Calumet & Hecla Copper Company was a firm funded by core capital, but operating in an internal periphery (Michigans Upper Peninsula), and eventually subject to peripheral constraints, along with the constraints of the physical environment, the physical characteristics of copper, and a concentrating industrial structure itself due largely to the physical characteristics of other types of copper mined elsewhere in the world. I focus on the firms efforts to maintain market access in the face of both a restructuring copper industry, driven by the coming online of much larger, lower-grade deposits that required much larger aggregations of capital to extract and process; and a restructuring transport system, driven by coppers industrial restructuring, but also by the politics of core and periphery within the U.S., including the imperatives of transport capital that tied peripheral resources to core manufacturing industry. A number of world-systems works over the past decade have examined periphery-core resource transport, exploring its importance to historical capitalism via increasing the speed and scope of circulation, improving access to raw materials, and being a leading sector for rising hegemons, due to the ever-increasing need for raw materials entailed by economic ascent. The case examined here was part of the United States own core emergence and eventual hegemonic ascendance, which was largely based on its domestic raw materials and the internal transport lines that enabled core industry to gain cheap access to those resources.

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