Looking for books about the resiliency of the California Economy.
March 20, 2013 4:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to prove the historic strength and resiliency of California. From the Gold Rush on. Being the birthplace of aerospace manufacturing, the cradle of film and digital. Basically something that puts into perspective all the slowdowns and eventual recoveries that California has always bounced back from. Ideally from a kosher academic perspective. I'd rather not have this from the tome of an avowed Marxist as an example. Who should I read and what did they write?
posted by rileyray3000 to Law & Government (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Carey McWilliams was always the go-to guy on this.
posted by steinsaltz at 4:20 PM on March 20, 2013

Also I think state historian Kevin Starr writes a lot about the boom and bust cycle in his very readable books. I am guessing you are trying to find something that isn't City of Quartz.
posted by steinsaltz at 4:58 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Kevin Starr's series on California history is unbeatable. It's really long -- six or seven volumes -- but reads like a novel, and is endlessly rewarding. You'll find quite a lot of Carey McWilliams in there, as well, though you should go to the source: "Southern California: An Island on the Land".

Doug Saunders's "Arrival City" is only in small part about Los Angeles, but that part is specifically about the resilience of a part of town that appeared fatally destroyed by the Rodney King riots in 1992, and how immigration of desperately poor people from a single village in El Salvador turned it around. In reference to "avowed Marxists", there is no better such than Mike Davis, and Saunders's book is in many ways an answer to Davis's pessimism in "City of Slums" and "City of Quartz" (which latter you should read as well, Marxism or no; you'll never understand the resilience of people unless you understand what has been done to them).

Another famously paradigm-busting book about LA is "Los Angeles: The Architecture of the Four Ecologies" by Reyner Banham, though it might be somewhat dated now.

A really good book about Southern California from a perspective you wouldn't immediately think of is Timothy White's "The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, and the California Experience", which is as much about the context of the California setting as it is the pop group.

"Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles" by Clora Bryant et al. and "Waiting For The Sun: A Rock and Roll History of Los Angeles" by Barry Hoskyns will fill you in on how the state was shaped by music.

A great look at the growth of Hollywood, and another look at how California is an idea as much as a place, is Neal Gabler's "An Empire of their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood".

I really enjoyed "Inventing Autopia: Dreams and Visions of the Modern Metropolis in Jazz Age Los Angeles" by Jeremiah Axelrod.
posted by Fnarf at 5:23 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

LACMA held a huge exhibition about 12 years ago called Made in California, which looked at the history of California's development (economic, historical, cultural, etc.) and its relationship to material culture and the arts. The exhibition catalogue and companion anthology might be useful for you.
posted by scody at 5:57 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Check out Berkeley geographer Richard Walker.

Now, he is an avowed Marxist, but also absolutely academically kosher, even to mainline economists. I've watched a business school prof nod in agreement at Walker's Marxist explanation of the financial crisis, for instance. The point here is that a lot of serious work in economic history, geography, anthropology, and sociology is Marx-inflected, and if you cut that out of your reading you're going to miss out on some really good work.
posted by col_pogo at 9:54 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Echoing Kevin Starr.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:05 PM on March 22, 2013

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