The core argument advanced in this study, focusing on the small town of West Point, Virginia, is that in many crucial ways, the political life of this community constitutes a mirror image, or reflection, of the general character of a large segment of American politics. In a specific sense, this in-depth examination of West Point's politics conveys to the reader much of the general nature of American politics: bargaining, negotiation, compromise, and consensus; the dominance of public office holding by the upper strata of society; the pluralist configuration of political power and influence; the privileged position of the business sector in the political realm; incremental policy change; and the central importance of intergovernmental relations in the American polity.
My selection of West Point was dictated by a variety of concerns. First, West Point was chosen because, due to earlier research efforts, I was already acquainted with the general socioeconomic and political character of the community. West Point was also selected because it met my requirement of examining the political life of an independent town distinct from and geographically not part of a metropolitan region. Third, due to the presence of the Chesapeake Corporation in the community, the choice of West Point allowed me to gain a further understanding of the relationship between corporate power and community politics. And finally, West Point was chosen because it met my need to investigate the politics of a rather ordinary small American locality, neither inordinately affluent or disadvantaged. The awarding of a Faculty Research Grant by the Grant-in-Aid Committee of Virginia Commonwealth University facilitated the commencement of my research, which began in the spring of 1986 and was largely completed in the fall of 1989.