‘City of Quartz’ author Mike Davis has died aged 76. : NPR

Scholar Mike Davis, in an undated photo provided by his publisher.


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'City of Quartz' author Mike Davis has died aged 76. : NPR

Scholar Mike Davis, in an undated photo provided by his publisher.


Mike Davis, a sort of plate tectonic thinker whose books transformed the way people, in Los Angeles in particular, understood their world, died Oct. 25 at his San Diego home at the age of 76. His death was marked by his publishing house, Verso, and by many friends and fans on social media.

For months, he had talked about his battle with esophageal cancer.

Michael Ryan Davis had a distinguished academic career teaching at various state schools in California, but he was best known for his books and essays, especially his masterful 1990 bestseller. Quartz citywho Los Angeles Time Columnist Carolina Miranda described in her obituary as “almost irrationally ambitious. supported by numerous footnotes and references to Marxist theorists such as Antonio Gramsci and Herbert Marcuse.”

Davis’ work draws deeply from his own lived history as a labor, environmental, and social justice activist. His deep and sincere knowledge of Los Angeles comes partly from his first job as a truck driver, exploring, as he puts it, “every nook and cranny of LA County.” In the 1960s he worked with students for a democratic society, then joined the Communist Party. A blue-collar child who grew up in suburban San Diego, he worked during his life as both a meat cutter and a professional Marxist. He won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 1998.

Davis took radical, often unpopular positions. He warned of global pandemics and environmental disasters long before most people cared to listen. His 1996 book Eecology of fear contained an essay relating to California wildfires entitled “The Case For Letting Malibu Burn”. More than 20 years and 100,000 scorched acres later, Davis was asked on NPR what made his essay more relevant than ever.

“There have been several million homes built over the last quarter century in first-class hurricane counties, including many places that should never have been built in the first place,” he said. said in this 2018 interview, criticizing federal disaster relief programs, the insurance industry, and – well, capitalism.

“The people of Malibu understand the frequency of fires, but the idea that you can protect structures and lives – yes, brush clearance makes sense. Yes, the home design should be more fireproof. But in the end “As a matter of fact, what these super fires show is that it is not enough and will never be enough. It is absolutely necessary to recognize the power of nature and the changing power of nature in these circumstances.”

Davis resisted the “prophet of doom” moniker he was sometimes saddled with. Rather, he was a prophet of compassion. He urged a return to what he saw as a Great Depression philosophy of kindness.

“Stop and take a hitchhiking family,” he advised in his 2012 book. Be realistic: demand the impossible. “Never cross a picket line, even when your family can’t pay the rent. Share your last cigarette with a stranger. Steal milk when your children don’t have any and then give half of it to the grandchildren of ‘next (that’s what my own mother did repeatedly in 1936. Listen carefully to the calm and deep people who have lost everything but their dignity. Cultivate the generosity of “we”.

Mike Davis is survived by his fifth wife, his two children from this marriage and two children from previous marriages.


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