Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse
Scholars and activists

Mike Davis Bio

Davis, Mike (b. 1946)Mike Davis in 2000, writer, historian, activist, resides in Los Angeles

  • detailed biography: Adam Schatz, "The American Earthquake: Mike Davis and the politics of disaster," in: Lingua Franca, Sept. 1997, republished on Radical Urban Theory:
    In 1969, after being fired by Dorothy Healey, the regional party leader, for hounding the Russian cultural attaché out of the store--Davis despised the Soviets and didn't like them snooping around--he enrolled in a teamsters' opportunity program. For the next four years, he hauled 240-foot trailers filled with Barbie dolls out of L.A., acquiring an encyclopedic knowledge of the city as well as of Western geography. In his spare time, he tried to master Marx's Capital and Sartre's Search for a Method and paid visits to Herbert Marcuse. Fellow left-wing truckers were rather hard to come by. "At night we'd go out to topless bars, and I'd blurt out, 'I'm a communist,' and they'd say, 'Dick's a Jehovah's Witness. Let's have another drink.'"
  • In a 1990s interview with Mark Dery, "Downsizing the Future: Beyond Blade Runner with Mike Davis," probably published in Dery's Escape Velocity (Grove 1997) [$1 used at amazon], and on Dery's website (alternate link):
    "You know, I don't really know what postmodernism is; I do know that we live in a post-liberal, post-reformist period where substantive urban reform has been abandoned and where the liberal positions of the '60s now stand in almost revolutionary relationship to political discourse in this country. What's being recycled as postmodernism is Frankfurt School Marxism in its most pessimistic mode, although admittedly jazzed up with some very interesting thoughts about new technologies and media. But Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man still squats on the horizon, shaping the argument; the 'postmodern' disappearance of the critical subjectivity is pure Marcuse.
    Davis: Of course, although I should point out that the malling of public space doesn't have this kind of Marcuse-ian determinacy, where the critical consciousness or the rebellious subject is extinguished in the sweet plunder of intoxicated consumption. Rather, what actually happens is the definition of new forms of criminality, to the extent that the social spaces that people--- particularly kids---use are now these pseudo-public spaces, malls and their equivalents. Increasingly, the only legal youthful activities involve consumption, which just forces whole areas of normal teenage behavior off into the margins."
  • author of  (additional texts available on Radical Urban Theory website):
    • Prisoners of the American Dream: Politics and economy in the history of the US working class (London: Verso, 1986)
    • ed: The Year Left 2: An American Socialist Yearbook (London: Verso, 1987)
    • and Michael Sprinker (eds.), Reshaping the US left : popular struggles in the 1980s (London: Verso, 1988)
    • et al, ed: Fire in the hearth: the radical politics of place in America (London: Verso, 1990)
    • City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (Verso, Vintage, 1990)
    • LA was just the beginning: Urban revolt in the United States: a thousand points of light (Open magazine pamphlet series, no. 20); (PO Box 2726, Westfield NJ 07091), 20 pages
    • Beyond Blade Runner: Urban Control, The Ecology of Fear (full text at MediaMatic)
      (Open magazine pamphlet series, no. 23); (PO Box 2726, Westfield NJ 07091), 20 pages
    • Ecology of fear: Los Angeles and the imagination of disaster (New York : Metropolitan Books, 1998)
    • Prisoners of the American dream: politics and economy in the history of the US working class (Verso, 1999)
    • video, in America behind Bars series: Beyond the prison industrial complex [videorecording]: critical resistance / [presented by] Deep Dish T.V.
      Publisher San Francisco, Calif. : Critical Resistance Video : Public Media Network [distributor], [1999?] Description 1 videocassette (56 min.)[highlights from 1998 Berkeley conf.]
    • Magical urbanism: Latinos reinvent the US city (New York : Verso, 2000)
    • Late Victorian holocausts : El Nin~o famines and the making of the third world (New York: Verso, 2001)
    • Dead cities, and other tales (New York: New Press; Distributed by W.W. Norton, 2002)
    • Land of the lost mammoths: a science adventure (Santa Monica, CA: Perceval Press, 2003)
    • Under the perfect sun : the San Diego tourists never see (New York: New Press; distributed by W.W. Norton, 2003)
    • "Planet of Slums," in New Left Review (March-April 2004): "Future history of the Third World's post-industrial megacities. A billion-strong global proletariat ejected from the formal economy, with Islam and Pentecostalism as songs of the dispossessed."
    • The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu (New Press, 2005)
    • "Planet of Slums: Urban Involution and the Informal Proletariat"
  • Readings from Marcuse and Davis are included in the University of Warwick course "Explorations in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies," 2005-06.
  • Margit Mayer used texts by Davis and Peter Marcuse in a 2002 Berlin course: "New York City and Los Angeles: Contrasting Politics in the Global City."
  • Nov. 1998 LA Weekly biography
Index entries: Davis, Mike
Updated: 2005