City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles

This new edition of Mike Davis’s visionary work gives an update on Los Angeles as the city hits the 21st century.

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.


  • “Absolutely fascinating.”
  • “Few books shed as much light on their subjects as this opinionated and original excavation of Los Angeles from the mythical debris of its past and future.”
  • “A history as fascinating as it is instructive.”


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    Hatred for hipsters is suspect, and certainly does not help us understand class divisions.

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    (image via parisbobo.com)

    The clip was meant to be funny and it is. It appears on one of the numerous blogs that mock hipsters. Two guys are going to a barbecue. On the way in, they encounter men whose beards are longer than theirs and whose shirts are a slightly different color from theirs, although otherwise all seems the same. They turn to each other and shout “wow, a party for hipsters, let’s get out of here!”, while the guests who were already there are heard whispering “who the hell are these hipsters?”. 

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  • New Left Review - Issue 93 out now

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Other books by Mike Davis Photography by Robert Morrow