No metropolis has been more loved or more hated. To its official boosters, "Los Angeles brings it all together." To detractors, LA is a sunlit mortuary where "you can rot without feeling it." To Mike Davis, the author of this fiercely elegant and wide- ranging work of social history, Los Angeles is both utopia and dystopia, a place where the last Joshua trees are being plowed under to make room for model communities in the desert, where the rich have hired their own police to fend off street gangs, as well as armed Beirut militias.
In City of Quartz, Davis reconstructs LA's shadow history and dissects its ethereal economy. He tells us who has the power and how they hold on to it. He gives us a city of Dickensian extremes, Pynchonesque conspiracies, and a desperation straight out of Nathaniel Westa city in which we may glimpse our own future mirrored with terrifying clarity.
In this new edition, Davis provides a dazzling update on the city's current status.
In an interview with Maria-Christina Vogkli and George Souvlis that first appeared on the LSE Researching Sociology blog, Mike Davis reflects on his upringing and discusses the 2016 US Presidential primaries.
1) Could you please tell us a bit about your family background?
My family background is distinctive only in being impossibly average. My dad came from a rural Protestant background in Ohio and was a fervent New Deal Democrat. My mom was an urban Irish Catholic and a registered Republican, but twice voted for the Socialist candidate Norman Thomas. She equally adored President Eisenhower and Liberace. Both were high-school graduates. Apart from the Vulgate Bible we had no books in our home, but my father was an avid newspaper reader (sports and politics) and my mom devoured the Reader’s Digest cover to cover. My dad worked in the wholesale meat industry in a strangely hybrid white collar/blue collar job. His workday was equally divided between sales calls, fabrication of orders, and delivering meat. Our family income, home mortgage, car value, hours spent watching TV, and so on were always the national median during the 1950s. (I’ve researched this). I grew up in a 1947 tract home on the exact border between the last subdivision and the remaining orange and avocado orchards of east San Diego County.
Edward Soja, the acclaimed urbanist and radical geographer, passed away on November 2nd, 2015. Mustafa Dikec, Professor of Urban Studies at Ecole d’Urbanisme de Paris and LATTS, announced his passing on the Critical Geography listserv:
It is with great sadness that I am writing to tell you that Edward Soja passed away last night in Los Angeles after a long battle with illness. Ed was one of the key figures associated with ‘the spatial turn’ in the 1980s, and his writings on space, spatial justice, and cities have inspired many since then. He will be sorely missed by his friends who knew his warm and genereous personality.
To celebrate his life and work, we publish an extract from Soja's classic work Postmodern Geographies: the Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory, in which he discusses the production of space and power in Los Angeles.
Writing for Public Books, Max Holleran review Sylvie Tissot's Good Neighbors: Gentrifyinf Diversity in Boston's South End. Praising the books combination of political and cultural investigation, Holleran describes Tissot's powerful analysis of how wealthier 'newcomers' create strong communities of their own - and, in so doing, force out those who once called the neighborhood home.
October 1, 2015 — This past spring a new French restaurant opened in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Located on Malcolm X Boulevard, directly across the street from a Crown Fried Chicken, the restaurant—with a menu that includes frog legs and a bottle of Bordeaux that sells for $2,000—is an incongruous new addition to an area of Brooklyn where the median household income is below $35,000. It is named L’Antagoniste, ostensibly for its celebration of the contrarian French personalities pictured on its walls, but neighbors might interpret the name differently.