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Empires in the Sun: The Rise of the New American West (with Bob Gottlieb)

Published in 1982 after extensive travels around the west, this book describes how western construction companies, such as Bechtel and Kaiser, with subsidies from the New Deal, laid the infrastructure in the form of water projects and energy systems for modern western city-building. With portraits of six cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City), Wiley and Gottlieb analyze and describe each city’s power structure--the nexus between politicians, business leaders, and the media--and how its policies have shaped the politics and economy of the west. They also discuss the nature and activities of native American communities, the environmental movement, the labor movement, and immigrant labor with particular emphasis on agribusiness and water and energy development. In one chapter Wiley and Gottlieb describe how corporate leaders in the west (Bechtel, Utah Mining and Construction, Bank of America, etc.) worked closely with the government in Washington to project American power into the Pacific Basin during and after World War II. For an understanding of the west from hardrock miners to mobsters, from the energy companies to politicians, such as Jerry Brown and Ronald Reagan, this is the book to read.