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My Los Angeles

From Urban Restructuring to Regional Urbanization

Edward W. Soja

Publication Year: 2014

Fighting the distorted imagery attached to Los Angeles, Edward Soja uses LA to rekindle our urban imagination about major issues affecting the world today. Here is a Los Angeles worthy to be learned from, an exemplary city region consisting of a network of at least forty cities with populations greater than 100,000. This polycentric regional city, once the least dense American metropolis, is now the country’s densest urbanized area. Traditionally seen as one of the most business-centered environments, Los Angeles has become a major focus for the American labor movement and generator of some of the most innovative urban social movements in the country. A model in the past of unrooted "placeless" urbanism, it has become a hive of neighborhood organizations practicing sophisticated forms of location-based politics. Once the most WASP metropolis in the country, LA is now among the most culturally heterogeneous cities the world has ever seen. 

Soja takes us through his evolving interpretations of this urban metamorphosis, combining varying doses of radical political economy, critical postmodernism, comparative urban studies, and the new regionalism. He reaches the confident conclusion that over the past thirty years Los Angeles has been experiencing a profound deconstruction and reconstitution, a breakdown of the familiar model of metropolitan growth and the formation of a new mode of regional urbanization that is spreading to many other megacity regions in the world. Soja’s highly personal and assertively spatial look at Los Angeles inspires, informs, challenges, and entertains.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-26

With its incomparable outward reach, Los Angeles vividly screens itself everywhere on earth, evoking images—and strong opinions—from practically everyone, including many who have never been there and depend on the opinions and images of others to shape their impressions. Its iconic imagery provokes exaggeration, fomenting emotionally excessive repulsion as well as unbridled attraction...

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1. When It First Came Together in Los Angeles

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pp. 27-58

My geohistory of Los Angeles begins in 1965, in the bewildering aftermath of one of the most violent and costly riots in U.S. history. Th e Watts Riots burned down the core of African American LA and had an even larger, worldwide impact. As one of the leading edges of global urban unrest in the 1960s, the Watts uprising announced to the world that the postwar economic boom in the United States and elsewhere was not going to continue with business as usual, for too many benefi ted too little from the boom...

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2. Taking Los Angeles Apart

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pp. 59-84

The early work of the Los Angeles research cluster reached a peak of sorts with the publication in 1986 of a special issue on Los Angeles by the influential journal Society and Space (Environment and Planning D). Michael Dear, then professor of geography at the University of Southern California and also a geographer-planner, was a founding editor of the journal and promoted the special issue...

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3. Inside Exopolis: Views of Orange County

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pp. 85-110

After “Taking Los Angeles Apart,” I could not go back to traditional academic writing and turned instead to the county next door to take another unconventional look at the Los Angeles urbanized area. Orange County was itself both a parody and paradigm of the New American City, an outer city that had grown into a peculiar “postsuburban” metropolis that demanded global attention and not a little scorn...

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4. Comparing Los Angeles

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pp. 111-139

After my Orange County adventures, with a few exceptions, I stopped writing directly about the Southern California region and began a new, more comparative phase of writing, lecturing, and learning from Los Angeles. Responding to the growing global interest in Los Angeles, I literally and figuratively took LA on tour around the world, responding to invitations to apply what had been learned to other urban contexts...

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5. On the Postmetropolitan Transition

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pp. 140-170

As practically everything described as “postmodern” in the 1990s became almost unavoidably embroiled in seemingly impossible-to-resolve conflicts of interpretation and emphasis, I stopped trying to defend and clarify my particular take on critical postmodernism (an oxymoron to many) and shift ed to interpreting more directly the dramatic transformation of the modern metropolis that I saw so vividly unfolding in Los Angeles.1...

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6. A Look Beyond Los Angeles

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pp. 171-193

There are currently around five hundred megacity regions with populations of over one million. Each one, including Los Angeles, can be seen as a product of two interacting forces, one involving general trends that affect them all to varying degrees, the other reflecting a multiplicity of particular local conditions and influential forces that make each different from the others...

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7. Regional Urbanization and the End of the Metropolis Era

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pp. 194-218

Regional urbanization has been referred to many times in earlier chapters. What I plan to do here, in addition to providing further clarification and elaboration of the concept, is to argue as strongly as I can just how profound a change regional urbanization represents in both the nature of the urbanization process and how we think about cities and urban change...

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8. Seeking Spatial Justice in Los Angeles

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pp. 219-246

Accompanying the rise of Los Angeles as the densest urbanized area in the country, its move from WASPish homogeneity to perhaps the most culturally heterogeneous city in the world, and its shift from exemplary model of the modern metropolis to forerunner of regional urbanization has been the transformation of Los Angeles from a notoriously antilabor environment to the leading edge of the American labor movement...

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9. Occupy Los Angeles: A Very Contemporary Conclusion

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pp. 247-268

Every chapter of My Los Angeles has been shaped by an assertive spatial perspective that builds on the notion that the material geographies which we produce and in which we live have a significant effect on our lives and our histories. Particularly powerful in this geographical effect is what can roughly be described as urban spatial causality, the explanatory force that derives from the stimulus of urban agglomeration, from the way urban life is spatially organized...

Appendix 1: Source Texts by the Author

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pp. 269-276

Appendix 2: Complementary Video Sources

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pp. 277-278


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pp. 279-284

E-ISBN-13: 9780520957633
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520281745

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • City planning -- California -- Los Angeles.
  • Sociology, Urban -- California -- Los Angeles.
  • Regional planning -- California -- Los Angeles.
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