In the latter part of the C20th, a series of seminal books were written which examined Los Angeles by the likes of Reyner Banham, Mike Davis, Edward Soja, Allen Scott, Michael Dear, Frederick Jameson, Umberto Eco, Bernard-Henri Levy, and Jean Baudrillard which have been hugely influential in thinking about cities more broadly. The debates which were generated by these works have tended to be very heated and either defensive or offensive in approach. A sufficient amount of time has since passed that a more measured approach to evaluating this work can now be taken. The first section of this book, 'Contra This and Contra That', provides such a critique of the various theories applied to Los Angeles during the last century, balancing the positive with the negative. The second part of the book is an investigation of L.A. as it exists on the ground today. While political, the theoretical stance taken in this investigation is not mounted as a platform from which to advocate a particular ideology. Instead, it encompasses cultural as well as economic issues to put forth a view of L.A. which is coherent and cogent while at the same time considering its multi-layed, complex and ever-changing qualities. It concludes by arguing that sectored off and 'totalizing' visions of the city will not do as instruments of urban analysis and that only a theory as mobile as its target will do: one that replicates the polymer nature of this place. It proposes that, extending that theory to the world beyond this particular city, only a theory that models itself on the mobile and polymer nature of the world, while still retaining a sense of the actual and the real, will do as an instrument with which to comprehend the world. In doing so, this book is not only a model by which to think through Los Angeles, but as a model by which to think through other world cities.
’Writing against many past attempts to categorize Los Angeles as a particular kind of city, and engaging with contemporary urban theory, this book compellingly argues that Los Angeles exceeds all such categorizations. Emphasizing its extra-urban connectivity and incipient political possibilities, a both/and vision of Los Angeles emerges that is potentially much more broadly applicable.’ Eric Sheppard, University of California, Los Angeles, USA ’Los Angeles is a city with a surfeit of seers, reading this or that lesson for the future everywhere out of its particularities. These overwrought claims about LA and its region are persuasively debunked here and a more complex story of the city as a living space is told. Rob Sullivan forensically pierces LA’s metaphorical balloons to provide a necessary account of the city more familiar to those of us who live there.’ John Agnew , University of California, Los Angeles, USA ’Los Angeles is always interpreted from the sidelines, through the dark lens of dystopian vision or the purple haze of boosterish optimism. Both are frameworks for putdown, and dismissal. Street Level shreds these easy certainties to reveal the city as a paradox: unknowable, yet intimately known to its denizens; without a center yet directly connected to the rest of the globe; on the brink of collapse yet thriving within concentric circles of cultural, political, ethnic, and intellectual life.’ Greg Goldin, Architecture Critic, Los Angeles Magazine, USA For those wishing to learn more about one of the world’s great cities, Street Level is a commendable read: much is to be learnt from this book. LSE Review of Books
Contents: Introduction; Part I Contra This and Contra That: a "The greatest blonde of them alla (TM); The carceral city; The postmodern city; The non-city. Part II Street Level: Los Angeles in the 21st Century: 21st century urbanism; Real L.A.; Cultural capital; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.