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The Post-Industrial Regime of Production/Consumption and the Rural Gentrification of the New West Archipelago

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Abstract

Abstract:  The contemporary American West is undergoing a round of rapid restructuring, which has been characterized as the shift from landscapes of production to landscapes of consumption. Here I propose that a more effective description of current changes, which allows us to retain focus on the relevant inter- and intra-class-based dynamics of an ongoing capitalist-Modernity, is as a result of the transition from the prior dominance of a regime of production/consumption of commodities/natural resources to the increasing ascendancy of the production/consumption of “experiences”. The rising dominance of this regime is, in large part, the result of the locally dramatic in-migration by ex-urban members of the post-industrial middle class to the “amenity-rich” counties of the region. This process of rural gentrification exacerbates preexisting social, geographic, and environmental disparities within the region, creating an “archipelago” of changing communities commonly referred to as the “New” West. Drawing on almost two years of ethnographic research from one such “island” community in south-central Montana, I describe local-level change between the relative primacy of the two regimes of production/consumption.

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