The Wild West

The Mythical Cowboy and Social Theory

by

'An extremely accessible, well structured and imaginative reading of market and social theory in terms of the myth of the Wild West frontier'

New Formations

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.

  • SAGE Publications; June 2001
  • ISBN 9781412933889
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: The Wild West
  • Author: Will Wright
  • Imprint: SAGE Publications Ltd

In The Press


"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."