Angelenos and Las Vegans Paved the Way

The atomistic kind of residential culture that southern Nevada devised was nothing unique to the urban Far West. However, it gained a certain significance as the obverse side of a gaming resort. Las Vegas was an exaggerated example of a new kind of society, neither urban or suburban, that became increasingly prominent in the United States during the twentieth century.

Defying customary measures of evaluation, this kind of metropolis appeared first in Southern California and spread quickly to such cities as Phoenix and Houston that shared characteristics of rapid growth, social division, and new ways of living. In Las Vegas, however, the presence of casino gaming cast the new patterns of urban life in bold outline, just as it dramatized problems accompanying cultural change.

Gambling tended to receive most of the blame for social problems in the resort city, but in fact the emergence of postindustrial ways of life also contributed to the symptoms experienced by Las Vegans. Southern Nevada served as a glimpse of the future in part because belonged to the Sunbelt. This urban region, defined by the demographic and economic expansion that had begun with increased federal expenditures in the South and West during World War II, was most receptive to the postindustrial culture appearing in the United States during the mid-twentieth century.

Its population consisted largely of newcomers whose expectations in migrating to the region encouraged acceptance of new technologies and new values. Compared to inhabitants of other parts of the country, growth-minded Sunbelt residents had less invested of the past and more invested in the future. As a result, they built societies that more readily pointed to the trend of tomorrow.

Southern Nevada epitomized several of the tendencies that characterized the nation's shift to post-industrialism. Service occupations rather than industrial work dominated that consumer culture was supplanting the product ethic. Even the increased drinking, delinquency, divorce, and other signs of 'anomie', were conditions that the erst of the nation would soon face as well.

Las Vegas essentially summarized the Sunbelt's challenge to traditional ways of life in the United States. During the postwar period, observers often examined the nature of society in Las Vegas and Los Angeles by comparing these new far western metropolises to old standards of urban life derived from the East.

Although the cultural styles of Sunbelt cities corresponded to no established ideal, they nonetheless became increasingly typical of American life during the postindustrial age as patterns of living first realized fully in the Far West spread eastward to the rest of the United States. And fortunately, despite the problems that troubled their innovative civilization, most Angelenos and Las Vegans never felt quite so maladjusted as critics alleged.