The Wild West, the industrial East and the outlaw

Martin Parker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This paper argues that dominant academic understandings of the Wild West overstate the extent to which it can be understood as a pro-capitalist mythology. The paper begins with an account of the making of the mythic West, particularly in the second half of the nineteenth century. I then consider the cultural economics of this process, noting that, for most of the twentieth century, the Western was the dominant genre across whole swathes of cultural production. This is followed by a consideration of the place of the outlaw and related figures that appear to problematize the legitimacy of new forms of social order, particularly in relation to land and ownership. I conclude with some thoughts on what it might mean to propose an anti-modern and radical reading of the Western, and to connect the cowboy with other social bandits, such as the pirate and the Mafiosi.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-365
Number of pages19
JournalCulture and Organization
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2011


  • Cowboy
  • Cultural representations
  • Outlaw
  • Social bandit
  • Wild West


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