The Los Angeles School: Difference, Politics, City


In the early 1980s, urban researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California embarked on a concerted effort to study and theorize the Los Angeles region. Their efforts resulted in a number of important theoretical and empirical writings that helped many rethink the ways in which contemporary cities work. Highlighting these contributions and examining how they inform our understandings of difference and the city, this article adopts a threefold approach. Firstly, it examines how the LA School integrated Marxist and poststructuralist theories to create a distinctive framework to interpret the sociospatial differences of the late‐capitalist city. The article maintains that rather than being a mere exponent of ‘postmodern’ urbanism, the unique theoretical contribution of the school has been its attempt to weave two theoretical traditions into a new interpretive framework. Secondly, the article examines the processes highlighted by the LA School that fractured the city–region into innumerable sociospatial pieces. Lastly, the article suggests the emergence of a second generation of the LA School, a generation retaining an interest in the issue of difference but seeking to explore how differences shape the possibilities for reactionary and progressive urban politics. The article concludes with a speculative discussion of what will become of the LA School with the departure of its most important contributors from UCLA and USC.