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New Left Review I/209, January-February 1995

Richard Walker

California Rages Against the Dying of the Light

For several decades California has played a leading role in the United States and world capitalism, but things have taken a sudden turn for the worse after a period of brilliant growth. Now, at the end of the millennium, California is a microcosm of the national malaise, the accumulated deadweight of a triumphal epoch bearing down on the present, leaving a misguided economy, a disintegrative social order, a decadent politics and the blinding ideology of an Imperium losing its grip. Chances for success in the wrenching process of economic, political and social restructuring depend on a wider political economy than the putative flexibility of California’s industries or the inspiration of its entrepreneurs. My thesis is simple: that California’s dilemmas have fundamental political and social causes, and the state is ideologically unprepared to cope with the profound tasks of industrial retooling, closing the class divide, or integrating a flood of dark-skinned peoples into the body politic.

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