Reading List

Mike Davis Bookshelf

Mike_davis_--

Mike Davis remains one of the sharpest labor scholars, urban theorists, and historians on Southern California and much more.

All books are 40% off as part of our end of year sale. See more reading lists here.

Mike Davis and Jon Wiener provide the first comprehensive movement history of L.A. in the sixties, drawing on extensive archival research and dozens of interviews with principal figures, as well as the authors’ storied personal histories as activists. Following on from Davis’s awardwinning L.A. history, City of QuartzSet the Night on Fire is a historical tour de force, delivered in scintillating and fiercely beautiful prose.

In City of Quartz, Davis reconstructs L.A.’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 West - a city in which we may glimpse our own future mirrored with terrifying clarity.

Prisoners of the American Dream is Mike Davis’s brilliant exegesis of a persistent and major analytical problem for Marxist historians and political economists: Why has the world’s most industrially advanced nation never spawned a mass party of the working class? This series of essays surveys the history of the American bourgeois democratic revolution from its Jacksonian beginnings to the rise of the New Right and the re-election of Ronald Reagan, concluding with some bracing thoughts on the prospects for progressive politics in the United States.

Examining a series of El Niño-induced droughts and the famines that they spawned around the globe in the last third of the 19th century, Mike Davis discloses the intimate, baleful relationship between imperial arrogance and natural incident that combined to produce some of the worst tragedies in human history.

Late Victorian Holocausts focuses on three zones of drought and subsequent famine: India, Northern China; and Northeastern Brazil. All were affected by the same global climatic factors that caused massive crop failures, and all experienced brutal famines that decimated local populations. But the effects of drought were magnified in each case because of singularly destructive policies promulgated by different ruling elites.

According to the United Nations, more than one billion people now live in the slums of the cities of the South. In this brilliant and ambitious book, Mike Davis explores the future of a radically unequal and explosively unstable urban world. From the sprawling barricadas of Lima to the garbage hills of Manila, urbanization has been disconnected from industrialization, and even from economic growth. Davis portrays a vast humanity warehoused in shantytowns and exiled from the formal world economy. He argues that the rise of this informal urban proletariat is a wholly unforeseen development, and asks whether the great slums, as a terrified Victorian middle class once imagined, are volcanoes waiting to erupt.

In this provocative history, Mike Davis traces the its worldwide use and development, in the process exposing the role of state intelligence agencies—particularly those of the United States, Israel, India, and Pakistan—in globalizing urban terrorist techniques. Davis argues that it is the incessant impact of car bombs, rather than the more apocalyptic threats of nuclear or bio-terrorism, that is changing cities and urban lifestyles, as privileged centers of power increasingly surround themselves with “rings of steel” against a weapon that nevertheless seems impossible to defeat.

Marx has returned, but which Marx? Recent biographies have proclaimed him to be an emphatically nineteenth-century figure, but in this book, Mike Davis’s first directly about Marx and Marxism, a thinker comes to light who speaks to the present as much as the past. In a series of searching, propulsive essays, Davis, the bestselling author of City of Quartz and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, explores Marx’s inquiries into two key questions of our time: Who can lead a revolutionary transformation of society? And what is the cause—and solution—of the planetary environmental crisis?

In his book, The Monster at Our Door, the renowned activist and author Mike Davis warned of a coming global threat of viral catastrophes. Now in this expanded edition of that 2005 book, Davis explains how the problems he warned of remain, and he sets the Covid-19 pandemic in the context of previous disastrous outbreaks, notably the 1918 influenza disaster that killed at least forty million people in three months and the Avian flu of a decade and a half ago.

Counterpointing LA’s central role in America’s fantasy life—the city has been destroyed no less than 138 times in novels and films since 1909—with its wanton denial of its own real history, Davis creates a revelatory kaleidoscope of American fact, imagery, and sensibility. Drawing upon a vast array of sources, Ecology of Fear meticulously captures the nation’s violent malaise and desperate social unease at the end of the "American century." With savagely entertaining wit and compassionate rage, this book conducts a devastating reconnaissance of our all-too-likely urban future.

Davis focuses on the great drama of how Latinos are attempting to translate their urban demographic ascendancy into effective social power. Pundits are now unanimous that Spanish-surname voters are the sleeping giant of US politics. Yet electoral mobilization alone is unlikely to redress the increasing income and opportunity gaps between urban Latinos and suburban non-Hispanic whites. Thus in Los Angeles and elsewhere, the militant struggles of Latino workers and students are reinventing the American left. Fully updated throughout, and with new chapters on the urban Southwest and the explodiing counter-migration of Anglos to Mexico, Magical Urbanism is essential reading for anyone who wants to grasp the future of urban America