Mike Davis on Life, Politics, and Mortality

The celebrated City of Quartz author speaks with the Los Angeles Times about activism, climate change, and his decision to stop cancer treatment.

July 28, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Metropolitan Detention Center, Los Angeles

The Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, California, seen on the cover of Mike Davis's City of Quartz. | Bureau of Prisons / Metropolitan Detention Center, Los Angeles

Even while facing terminal cancer, iconic urban theorist and activist Mike Davis gave an expansive interview to Sam Dean of the Los Angeles Times, discussing everything from climate change to Bohemian Grove to death.

Davis is best known among urbanists for his 1990 book City of Quartz, a searing critique of corrupt Los Angeles institutions and carceral design and a prescient warning about the civil unrest that was to explode in the city just a few years later. “An astonishing run of more than a dozen books followed, oscillating between critiques and histories of the American West and sweeping historical analyses of how climate disaster, capitalism and colonialism have ground the global poor between their gears and set us up for future calamity (including global viral pandemics, predicted in 2005’s “The Monster at Our Door”).”

Dean describes Davis’ affable nature and generosity (“Our conversation lasted from midday until sunset”). Davis gives his opinion on climate change, fatalism, the LAPD, and the importance of organized social movements. For Davis, “the biggest single political problem in the United States right now has been the demoralization of tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of young activists. Part of the problem is the lack of organizational structure, particularly of organizations of organizers.”

Davis concludes without wanting to leave any profound words about his own impending death. “I’m just an ordinary person going through what every ordinary person eventually goes through under circumstances that aren’t especially tragic at all.” For Davis, “ It’s been more fun just watching Golden State play or Scandinavian mysteries or reading books, above all relaxing and hanging out with the family.”

Monday, July 25, 2022 in Los Angeles Times

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