Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area
Author: Richard A. Walker
Publisher: PM Press/ Spectre
Page count: 480
The San Francisco Bay Area is currently the jewel in the crown of capitalism—the tech capital of the world and a gusher of wealth from the Silicon Gold Rush. It has been generating jobs, spawning new innovation, and spreading ideas that are changing lives everywhere. It boasts of being the Left Coast, the Greenest City, and the best place for workers in the USA. So what could be wrong? It may seem that the Bay Area has the best of it in Trump’s America, but there is a dark side of success: overheated bubbles and spectacular crashes; exploding inequality and millions of underpaid workers; a boiling housing crisis, mass displacement, and severe environmental damage; a delusional tech elite and complicity with the worst in American politics.
This sweeping account of the Bay Area in the age of the tech boom covers many bases. It begins with the phenomenal concentration of IT in Greater Silicon Valley, the fabulous economic growth of the bay region and the unbelievable wealth piling up for the 1% and high incomes of Upper Classes—in contrast to the fate of the working class and people of color earning poverty wages and struggling to keep their heads above water. The middle chapters survey the urban scene, including the greatest housing bubble in the United States, a metropolis exploding in every direction, and a geography turned inside out. Lastly, it hits the environmental impact of the boom, the fantastical ideology of TechWorld, and the political implications of the tech-led transformation of the bay region.
“San Francisco has battened from its birth on instant wealth, high tech weaponry, and global commerce, and the present age is little different. Gold, silver, and sleek iPhones—they all glitter in the California sun and are at least as magnetic as the city’s spectacular setting, benign climate, and laissez-faire lifestyles. The cast of characters changes, but the hustlers and thought-shapers eternally reign over the city and its hinterland, while in their wake they leave a ruined landscape of exorbitant housing, suburban sprawl, traffic paralysis, and delusional ideas about a market free enough to rob the majority of their freedom. Read all about it here, and weep.”
—Gray Brechin, author of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin
“Too many studies of cities dwell on their peculiarities; this fascinating book balances the dramatic story of the Bay Area against a profound understanding of urbanization. It eschews a descriptive narrative in favor of hard-hitting critical analysis. The book is not only about the inherently contradictory development of the San Francisco region, but also about where it stands in relation to the rest of the United States, even the world and why it matters so much. No one but Richard Walker combines such an intimate knowledge of one city with the theoretical insights necessary to make sense of it.”
—Kevin Cox, author of The Politics of Urban and Regional Development and the American Exception
“Debunking the Horatio Alger promotional blather of self-flattering tech moguls, the real Bay Area comes into view, based on nurses and teachers, drivers and clerks, homeless and the desperate. Real estate bubbles have given way to tech bubbles which have given way to housing bubbles, and now have given way to a chimerical prosperity that is as fragile as any of the prior ones.”
—Chris Carlsson, San Francisco historian and cofounder of Critical Mass
“Walker has given us a brilliantly accessible and fact-laden political economy of the San Francisco Bay Area—America’s richest and fastest changing metropolis. Pictures of a Gone City explains both the miracle of Silicon Valley and the heavy price, in growing inequality, unaffordability, and environmental impact, that the Bay Area is paying for it.”
—Wendy Brown, author of Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution
“With Pictures of a Gone City, California’s greatest geographer tells us how the Bay Area has become the global center of hi-tech capitalism. Drawing on a lifetime of research, Richard Walker dismantles the mythology of the New Economy, placing its creativity in a long history of power, work, and struggles for justice.”
—Jason W. Moore, author of Capitalism in the Web of Life
About the Author:
Richard A. Walker is professor emeritus of geography at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught from 1975 to 2012. Walker has written on a diverse range of topics in economic, urban, and environmental geography, with scores of published articles to his credit. He is coauthor of The Capitalist Imperative (1989) and The New Social Economy (1992) and has written extensively on California, including The Conquest of Bread (2004), The Country in the City (2007) and The Atlas of California (2013).
Walker is currently director of the Living New Deal Project, whose purpose is to inventory all New Deal public works sites in the United States and recover the lost memory of government investment for the good of all. Walker now splits time between Berkeley and Burgundy.
See and hear author interviews, book reviews, and other news on Richard A. Walker's page HERE
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