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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.

Reviews

  • “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.”

Blog

  • Infrastructures of Empire and Resistance


    Demolition of "The Jungle" migrant camp in Calais, October 2016. 

    In late October 2016, I packed my bags for a short trip abroad, leaving a region raw with struggle over the racial and colonial violence of infrastructure. In places like Standing Rock, Flint, Muskrat Falls, Toronto, and Baltimore, conflicts raged over the targeted violence of energy, water, border, and policing systems. Movements for Black lives, for migrants’ rights, for indigenous sovereignty, and for economic and environmental justice were increasingly mapping violent infrastructure systems with their direct actions and analyses. The water protectors’ camps at Standing Rock were large and growing, animated by spirit, ceremony, and unprecedented gathering as they halted the Dakota Access Pipeline. The largest prison strike in history, 45 years after the Attica uprising, was calling out the inhumanity of American carceral infrastructure. Black organizers were denouncing infrastructure crises like the one poisoning Flint, Michigan, suggesting these would be the defining struggles for Black communities to come. More than 50 Indigenous Nations from across Turtle Island had just signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, with the goal of protecting Indigenous lands and waters from all proposed pipeline, tanker, and rail projects. In my hometown of Toronto, Black Lives Matter members were making claims for the protection of “Black Infrastructure.” Blockades of damns, ports, highways, and rail infrastructure had become frequent news virtually everywhere, except for in the reporting of the mainstream media.

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  • Buda’s Wagon: The Gates of Hell

    Mike Davis writing on history and the city has been celebrated across the world. To mark the significance of his work, we're re-releasing his classic works in these beautiful new editions and we have 40% off all his writing until Jan 22.

    Here we present an extract from Buda’s Wagon, Davis' brilliant and disturbing 100-year history of the “poor man’s air force,” the ubiquitous weapon of urban mass destruction

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  • Late Victorian Holocausts: The Origins of the Third World

    Mike Davis writing on history and the city has been celebrated across the world. To mark the significance of his work, we're re-releasing his classic works in these beautiful new editions and we have 40% off all his writing until Jan 22.

    Here we present an extract from 
    Late Victorian Holocausts, Davis' magisterial melding of global ecological and political history, disclosing the nineteenth-century roots of underdevelopment in what became the Third World.

    What historians ... have so often dismissed as “climatic accidents” turn out to be not so accidental after all. Although its syncopations are complex and quasi-periodic, ENSO [El Niño-Southern Oscillation] has a coherent spatial and temporal logic. And, contrary to Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie’s famous (Eurocentric?) conclusion in Times of Feast, Times of Famine that climate change is a “slight, perhaps negligible” shaper of human affairs, ENSO is an episodically potent force in the history of tropical humanity. If, as Raymond Williams once observed, “Nature contains, though often unnoticed, an extraordinary amount of human history,” we are now learning that the inverse is equally true: there is an extraordinary amount of hitherto unnoticed environmental instability in modern history. The power of ENSO events indeed seems so overwhelming in some instances that it is tempting to assert that great famines, like those of the 1870s and 1890s (or, more recently, the Sahelian disaster of the 1970s), were “caused” by El Niño, or by El Niño acting upon traditional agrarian misery. This interpretation, of course, inadvertently echoes the official line of the British in Victorian India as recapitulated in every famine commission report and viceregal allocution: millions were killed by extreme weather, not imperialism. Was this true?

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Other books by Mike Davis Photography by Robert Morrow

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    Buda’s Wagon

    The brilliant and disturbing 100-year history of the “poor man’s air force,” the ubiquitous weapon of urban mass destruction

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    Late Victorian Holocausts

    A magisterial melding of global ecological and political history, disclosing the nineteenth-century roots of underdevelopment in what became the Third World

    9 posts

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    Planet of Slums

    The classic, brilliant, best-selling account of the rise of the world’s slums, where, according to the United Nations, one billion people now live

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