Mike Davis is a writer and an historian who was involved in the US civil rights movement in San Diego in the early 1960s. Davis came late to academia, having worked first as an activist for Students for a Democratic Society and later as a truck driver and a union organiser. At the age of 30 he won a scholarship to study at University of California, LA with a period in UK at University of Edinburgh and working for Verso in London. His background has informed his writings on social exclusion and poverty as well as his teaching. He taught urban theory at Southern California Institute of Architecture for a number of years, encouraging his students to explore LA through its 'social and environmental histories' and by getting involved in community projects. He has taught across a range of departments, including, geography, history, and political science, and is currently teaching in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside.
Davis' books, generated from a socialist perspective, have focused on the global problem of slums and the policies of NGOs, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; on the decline of the American city examined through white flight, deindustrialization, housing and job segregation, discrimination, and federal policy; or the relationship between urban developments and natural ecosystems. His book City of Quartz is attributed as having predicted the racial tensions that led to the LA riots of 1992; and Planet of Slums is influential for bringing into focus the predicament of the vast majority of urban dwellers in the world today. Taking as its starting point the idea that neo-liberalism is the natural successor to colonialism, the book captures the urgency of the situation faced by the majority of the world's population. Here Davis advocates a global revolution of the working class along ecologically sound and socialist principles rather than in local reforms that bring about change through small, incremental steps.
In all his work, Davis has focused on the intersection of space and politics, arguing that spatial production can only be understood through an unraveling of the underlying political forces.
Davis, Mike, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los
Angeles (London: Verso, 2006).
---, Dead Cities, and Other Tales (New York: New Press, 2002).
---, Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1998).
---, Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism (New York: The New Press, 2009).
---, Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the US City, Haymarket series (London: Verso, 2000).
---, Planet of Slums, Reprint (London: Verso, 2007).
Ayyüce, Orhan, 'Meeting Mike Davis', Archinect, 2009 [accessed 25 November 2009].
Pithouse, Richard, 'On Mike Davis, "Planet of Slums"',
Interactivist Info Exchange, 2008 [accessed 25 November
Slater, Josephine Berry, ed., 'Special Issue: Naked Cities-Struggle in Global Slums', Mute Magazine - Culture and politics after the net, 2 (2006) [accessed 14 December 2009].
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