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The Paradigmatic City: Postindustrial Illusion and the Los Angeles School

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In the 1980s a group of geographers known informally as the Los Angeles School proclaimed Los Angeles as the paradigmatic metropolis of the late-twentieth century. The postmodern/flexible specialization model Los Angeles School adherents developed to explain Los Angeles and validate its paradigmatic status is critiqued theoretically and empirically. The unfortunate timing of their claims of Los Angeles' suzerainty over the Pacific Rim is discussed, and the development and status of its propulsive industrial sectors, such as armaments, aerospace, entertainment, finance, and real estate, are examined. The armaments industry receives special attention because of its critical role in postwar Los Angeles' growth and subsequent decline and because the Los Angeles School devoted considerable research and even praise to this particular type of government “warfare” spending as a key constituent of the area's technopole. The entertainment industry is not sufficient to extract Los Angeles from its continuing crisis. At the moment, Los Angeles lacks any credible plan for overcoming the contemporary malaise. The difficulties in the Los Angeles School's analysis are held to stem from their theoretical synthesis of postmodernism and flexible specialization, a natural but unfortunate Ptolemaic perspective expressed in the belief that one's particular locale is paradigmatic and a lack of recognition of the malignant aspects of defense-spurred economic development.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: El Colegio de la Frontera Norte—Tijuana, Tijuana, Mexico, 2: University of California, Davis, California

Publication date: 1999-01-01

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