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Special Issue Articles

Vol. 3 No. 2 (2022): The American Entrepreneurial Spirit

'When you look at a calf, what do you see?': Land(ed) Business, Manifest Entrepreneurialism, and Competing Capitalisms in the Contemporary West of Yellowstone

Submitted
September 11, 2021
Published
2022-06-30

Abstract

For a popular, mass media text, Paramount's hit television show Yellowstone (2018–) packs quite a punch. It renders visible in a mass-mediated, synecdochial format the latent and ongoing effects that settler colonialism and its entanglements with the necrotic logic of capitalism have on lifeworlds in the contemporary West. By making a traditionally privileged place—a multigenerational cattle ranch—the principal target of intrusive, increasingly powerful agents of big non-agricultural capital, who are portrayed as a threat to the local and regional polity and the social fabric of the rural West, Yellowstone says something tangible and pertinent about the fastest growing region in the United States, and the massive changes in land use and land development that have registered in the past two and a half decades.

This article pursues a goal that is twofold. Firstly, it will map the Trans-Mississippi West as an entrepreneurial habitat where the agents of settler colonialism initiated patterns that continue to undergird land ownership, land development, and land use policies in the contemporary West. Secondly, I will read and explicate how Yellowstone remediates New/Post-West scholarship—the work of social historians and cultural geographers in particular—with a seemingly didactic zeal. Ultimately, this yields a rather sober(ing) view of entrepreneurism in that its frequently quoted Schumpeterian definition—creative destruction—amounts to an ideological position that can only ever produce formations of violence, be they physical, psychological, epistemic, symbolic, and/or ecological.

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