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Las Vegas as the Anthropocene: The Neoliberal City as Desertification All the Way Down

The Challenge of Progress

ISBN: 978-1-78714-572-6, eISBN: 978-1-78714-571-9

Publication date: 26 November 2019


This survey of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a benchmark for the transformations of the Anthropocene, is a provisional exercise in applied social theory. Like multiple processes of desertification that are accelerating in and around Las Vegas, this study is provisional, as it follows Las Vegas as a discrete place whose desertifying qualities are spreading far beyond Nevada, regionally, nationally, globally, and virulently so. Las Vegas, Las Vegas Valley, Mohave Desert, and Colorado River Basin are biopolitical spaces and geophysical places that iteratively replicate the psycho-social contradictions of people in search of sustainable lifestyles in global spaces rocked by ecological catastrophe, and which is open to critical scrutiny. The study more closely examines how systems of organized growth tied to commercial degradation, urban demography, military development, and nuclear devastation drive desertification in this region as well as elsewhere. Like the planet’s other sprawling cities, Las Vegas is an integral component in the globalizing neoliberal omnipolitanization of the Earth’s surface. The neoliberal logic of “winner takes all” also is reflected in the metrometabolic exchanges of these extraordinary urban formations. The rampant overdevelopment of a vast urban simulation, featuring multiple ruinations of its own built and natural landscapes, may give many Las Vegans, and probably most Vegas visitors, their most fundamental sense of place.



Luke, T.W. (2019), "Las Vegas as the Anthropocene: The Neoliberal City as Desertification All the Way Down", The Challenge of Progress (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 36), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 159-178.



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