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The Wild West
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The Wild West
The Mythical Cowboy and Social Theory

First Edition


June 2001 | 206 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
"In this ingenious new book, Wright offers an introduction to the theory of capitalist market individualism – from social contract theory via Adam Smith, Marx and Weber all the way to Keynes – by analyzing its projections in the myths of the frontier and the Western. The comparison is most illuminating, both for the reality and its ideology. Wright's valuable filmographies make this an excellent teaching instrument" – Professor Fredric Jameson, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina "To begin with, The Wild West is a lucid introduction to social and political theory, a book I'd recommend to any student. But then it is also a witty meditation on the continuing power of Wild West mythology. Wright reverses the usual argument: he doesn't use sociology to explain the cowboy but, brilliantly, uses the cowboy to explain sociology. And, in the end, this is really a book about the USA, showing why a country rooted in European thought is so peculiar for Europeans – in its violence and its heroism, its destructiveness and optimism, in its racism and generosity" – Professor Simon Frith, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, U.K. This book, written by the author of the celebrated volume Six Guns and Society, explains why the myth of the Wild West is popular around the world. It shows how the cultural icon of the Wild West speaks to deep desires of individualism and liberty and offers a vision of social contract theory in which a free and equal individual (the cowboy) emerges from the state of nature (the wilderness) to build a civil society (the frontier community). The metaphor of the Wild West retained a commitment to some limited government (law and order) but rejected the notion of the fully codified state as too oppressive (the corrupt sheriff). Compelling and magnificently suggestive, the book unpacks one of the core icons of our time. It is a unique discussion of market and social theory using cultural myth. Will Wright fully explores how issues of individualism, freedom and inequality in the myth of the Wild West connect up with questions of white, male superiority and environmental degradation
 
Introduction
The Individualist Cowboy

 
 
PART ONE: INDIVIDUALISM
 
The Social Contract
 
`Natural' Individuals
 
The Invisible Hand
 
PART TWO: INDUSTRIAL PROBLEMS
 
Marx
The Revolutionary and the Cowboy

 
 
Weber
Bureaucracy and the Cowboy

 
 
Durkheim
Endless `Frontiers'

 
 
PART THREE: MYTHICAL INSIGHTS
 
Separating the Women
 
Removing the Indians
 
Sustaining the Wilderness
 
Conclusion
The Wild Individualist West

 

"In this ingenious new book, Wright offers an introduction to the theory of capitalist market individualism – from social contract theory via Adam Smith, Marx and Weber all the way to Keynes—by analyzing its propositions in the myths of the frontier and the Western. The comparison is most illuminating, both for the reality and its ideology. Wright’s valuable filmographies make this an excellent teaching instrument."

Professor Frederic Jameson
Duke University, Durham, NC

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 4

Chapter 7


Will Wright

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ISBN: 9780761952336
£ 45.99

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