Community Consumed: Sunbelt Capitalism, a Praxis for Community Control, and the (DIS)Integration of Civic Life in Maryvale, Arizona

Anthony Charles Pratcher, University of Pennsylvania


Civic activists have worked to embed community institutions in the Phoenix area from the time of initial Anglo settlement in the Salt River valley. Civic elites sought to monopolize control over regional development via municipal governance in the period after the Second World War. This dissertation places qualitative sources on community life in conversation with quantitative sources on political economy to explain how civic elites, as manifest in the civic organization of Charter government, worked with suburban activists to maintain spatial racialization in Phoenix. This process reveals that the socio-political value of civic life has waned in metropolitan Phoenix after the political ascent of Charter government. The outcome of this change is that marginalized Anglo communities like Maryvale, the first master-planned community built in Phoenix after World War II, were consumed by racial transition once local civic activists lost control over neighborhood economies. John F. Long began to construct Maryvale atop cotton and cantaloupe fields on the rural periphery of metropolitan Phoenix in the mid-fifties. The sweat equity of civic participation helped Long provide residents with access to affordable community amenities. He hoped that annexation into Phoenix would benefit Maryvale, but continued political marginalization hindered local efforts to provide civic services, like community healthcare, without burdensome debt. Soon, political engagement declined and outside investors acquired operational ownership of civic institutions; moreover, the social capital which traditionally remunerated civic activity declined in value as racial minorities challenged Anglo hegemony over local civic life. By the late seventies, when racial tensions among local youth boiled over into overt violence, civic leaders lacked the social capital to ameliorate racial conflict, and Anglos abdicated civic authority to law enforcement to pacify hostilities. This shift in community praxis, from civic participation to private consumption, transformed local patterns of racial integration into regional patterns of social segregation.^

Subject Area

American history|Public policy|Urban planning

Recommended Citation

Pratcher, Anthony Charles, "Community Consumed: Sunbelt Capitalism, a Praxis for Community Control, and the (DIS)Integration of Civic Life in Maryvale, Arizona" (2017). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10616150.