This paper applies Marx’s concept of immiseration to the mining communities of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, in an attempt to conceptualise the consequences of de-industrialisation. We identify and explore a series of specific social, economic, historical, political and geographic circumstances that have militated against the radicalisation predicted by Marx, but nonetheless conclude that the concept of immiseration continues to have contemporary relevance. Economic hardship, out-migration on an unprecedented scale and a collapse of confidence at both an individual and collective level are the consequences of de-industrialisation and reveal the contemporary experience and purpose of immiseration. First, it is a process through which a geographically isolated population of workers have become conditioned either to accept poor work in terms of lower wages and conditions, or to become economic migrants. Second, it is a process through which new opportunities for profitability and investment are established for new investors.