Silo Point and Conflict Theory

August 22, 2014

Silo Point complex looking across the Harbour from Fells Point.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Fans of The Wire, a monumental series on HBO that depicts life in the  inner city of Baltimore, Maryland as seen through the eyes of the police department and the residents of particular neighborhoods, will remember Season 2 as having property development in the Inner Harbour and the conflict that arose between competing interests as a central theme.  From a sociological standpoint, and The Wire provides ample material for the study of sociological concepts, this story depicts the struggle for control over scarce resources, which is a fundamental premise of Conflict Theory.  (As an aside, most of the entire series of The Wire is about the struggle for the control of scarce resources.) Some members of the longshoreman’s union wanted the pier associated with the Locust Point Grain Terminal silos to be rebuilt and expressed concern that otherwise the site would be developed resulting in a loss of work, and economic opportunity, for their members.  That plan presented a conflict with developers, who saw the economic opportunity as residing in the creation of a high-end condominium complex.  Politicians and local drug dealers saw still other opportunities-it is a complex and compelling storyline.  The above photograph is a present-day view of the property, now known as Silo Point.

By watching Season 2, one can see what the property looked like in the past-some photographs are also contained in the links that follow.  In 2004, The Baltimore Sun provided a concise history of the grain elevator and that can be read here.  The National Building Museum (2007-2008) addressed the historical importance of the structure and an architectural view of the project, which can be read here. Turner Development’s site, circa 2009, is here and it emphasized a particular quality of life as being provided by the new construction.

When thinking about “scarce resources” and sociology, the main three are wealth (the ownership and/or control over money and property), power (the ability to get people to do what you want them to do, especially if they do not want to), and prestige (the social esteem given to certain positions).  “Quality of life” issues are also often based on access to these three resources.  Conflict Theory posits that those who have wealth and/or power and/or prestige, want to keep and/or increase their resources; often through the exploitation of those without.  For those being exploited, the goal is to gain access to the three resources and, therefore, gain a higher position in society.  The area now known as Silo Point, as depicted in the series, certainly represented the opportunity for wealth, power, and prestige as well as the efforts of the various groups to exercise their will.

One can argue that it does so in real life as well.

Take care.

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