Richard Walker has played a crucial role in shaping our understanding of the Bay Area. A prolific author, educator, and advocate, he has helped us see how the capitalist system has remade the region in its interest but also how ordinary people have mobilized to fight back. His latest book, Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area, is a comprehensive survey of the high-tech boom. He describes the stresses and injustices that it bears as well as its fault lines and vulnerabilities.
Although he writes in a popular, accessible style, his work rests on sophisticated ideas about how the world operates and where it is going. Whether or not you share his conclusions, his reflections can help us explore the big questions that local radicals—and radicals anywhere—must address in order to transform society.
In this interview, I ask Walker a series of questions designed to provide some context for understanding his work. We talk about his personal and intellectual evolution, his political and theoretical convictions, and his thoughts about the future. If you are curious about what makes him tick, this podcast is for you!
Here is an overview of the episode:
0:00 — Why this podcast?
3:20 — Why interview Richard Walker?
4:45 — The interview itself
4:58 — His background and the impact of the 1960s
8:43 — The rise of a left in geography
17:50 — Why write about the Bay Area?
35:05 — Why write Pictures of a Gone City now?
40:45 — The goal: communist revolution or a New Deal?
49:35 — Marxism and anarchism in the Bay Area
55:03 — What distinguishes radical demands from reformist demands?
103:05 — His decades of mentoring
111:50 — What he is working on now and how to find him
Some of the things and people mentioned:
Save The Bay
Students for a Democratic Society
Puerto Rican Liberation Front
Berkeley Citizens Action
Friends of the Earth
City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los AngelesEcology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster
The California Studies Association
The Capitalist Imperative: Territory, Technology and Industrial GrowthAndrew Sayer
The New Social Economy: Reworking the Division of Labor
An Atlas of California: Mapping the Challenge of a New Era
The Conquest of Bread. 150 Years of Agribusiness in California
The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area
The New Left Review
The Living New Deal Project
East Bay Socialist School
Symbionese Liberation Army