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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: July 2014

1 - Convergence, Metropolitanization, and Anticommunism

Summary

World War II transformed the modern American Sunbelt. That war – or more specifically, the massive amount of money spent by the federal government to mobilize the nation and fight that war – accelerated the regional convergence and economic development of metropolitan communities across the South and West. Much of that economic development was rooted in industrial growth connected to national security interests, defense contracts, military expansion, and technology. It was concurrently fueled by and cyclically reflected in the rapid growth of related but increasingly postindustrial sectors such as higher education, finance, real estate, retail, and tourism. Economic expansion across the Sunbelt resulted in population growth, and population growth contributed to greater political significance.

The Sunbelt’s early growth also coincided with the development of a national political culture that was powerfully shaped by anticommunism. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, as cities across the South and West were booming, Americans everywhere – whether liberal or conservative – operated within a contextual framework that prioritized the containment (and eventual defeat) of communism. Seen by many as both a challenge to U.S. interests abroad as well as American values at home, communism – in all its loosely defined and fearfully imagined forms – quickly became the nation’s top perceived threat.

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