Remembering a Titan: Mike Davis Dies at 76

Davis’ unflinching portrait of Los Angeles politics and power dynamics remains a penetrating analysis of modern city-building, who it benefits, and who it leaves behind.

Read Time: 2 minutes

October 26, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Black and white portrait of Mike Davis / Mike Davis in 2017

Few people captured the conflicting feelings of love and frustration that Los Angeles elicits in those who experience the city more than author and cultural critic Mike Davis, who died this Tuesday. In an obituary for the Los Angeles Times, Carolina A. Miranda describes Davis’ legacy as an incisive critic and staunch defender of the complicated metropolis, whose book City of Quartz remains a seminal work in urbanism and history.

In the book, Davis laid bare the inequity and power dynamics that shape the city, exposing the dark underbelly of the City of Angels. “Released by the lefty publishing house Verso, it was 462 dense, unsparing pages about the ways in which powerful interests in Los Angeles — namely, real estate developers, aided and abetted by politicians and the Police Department — had ruthlessly molded the landscape of the city to their whim, principally at the expense of the working class and people of color, all while promoting myths about backyard living.”

But Davis was also an ardent booster for Los Angeles. City of Quartz was, for Davis, a cautionary tale rather than an indictment. Miranda ends with a quote that sums up Davis’ feelings about his work. “I love Los Angeles. How can you not see that? I suppose the book is, in the end, a failure if it betrays none of the sense of deep feeling I have about the city. But that’s where being a radical comes in — you have to rain on the parade.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2022 in Los Angeles Times

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