Nash writes about the centrality of the federal government in shaping the West in the twentieth century. He notes the government “may not have been the only influence on the shaping of the West in the twentieth century, but it must be considered the dominant force.” (x)
Nash’s methodology borrows from Nicolae Kondratieff, a Russian economist in the 1920s, who proposed three long waves in economic activity. The first wave occurred between 1787 and 1845 and emerged from steam engines and new sources of power. The second wave came between 1845 and 1890 when steamships and Bessemer furnaces provided new technologies of power. The third phase occurred between 1890 and 1947 as electric light, alternating currents, and automobiles were the technologies that drove new industries. Nash extrapolates and offers a fourth wave beginning sometime in the late 1960s: the “further development of the transistor” (first invented in 1947) and “especially its adaptation in the computer chip (1971).” (xi)
Nash also borrows from Joseph Schumpeter, who updates Kondratieff in the 1930s my emphasizing the role of technology and that the beginning of each wave started with technological innovations. The Kondratieff-Schumpeter cycles explain cycles of growth in the western United States, according to Nash. But these waves of technology were not the only factors shaping the West; global monetary conditions also shaped entrepreneurial activity in the West.