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This Is the City

Making Model Citizens in Los Angeles

2004
Author:

Ronald J. Schmidt Jr.

This Is the City

A history of the urban and political forces in L.A. that sought to create virtuous and docile citizens

Ronald Schmidt reveals how the political culture of Southern California is structured by efforts to exhort citizens to emulate models of virtue and to coerce them to imitate passive behavior. This Is the City traces this effort to "script" the Los Angeles social life, demonstrating how democratic pedagogy and popular media have been used to advance a utopian vision of government.

This story is not just about the city itself but about the ideas, images, and rhetoric that helped shape its politics and culture. This is a compelling book that provides a new way to look at how rhetoric and images shape political culture. It is a rich narrative of the elites, media, politicians, and citizens of Los Angeles. It is a book that is furthering our understanding of the development of political culture, the media, and civic education.

Perspectives on Politics

Jack Webb’s Los Angeles, a Southern California paradise built of confidence games and real estate booms, swindles and boondoggles, is indeed “the City.” But it is not the only one, as Ronald Schmidt makes clear in this critical look at the little-examined foundation of L.A.’s political culture.

Schmidt reveals how the political culture of Southern California is structured by over a century’s worth of efforts to exhort citizens to emulate models of virtue and to coerce them to imitate models of passive behavior. This Is the City traces this effort to "script" the city's social life, demonstrating how democratic pedagogy and popular media have been used to advance a utopian vision of government.

In a history peopled by outsized characters like Harrison Gray Otis, first publisher of the L.A. Times, and studio moguls Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner, Schmidt shows how Angeleno elites, from media mavens to the militaristic heroes of the LAPD, have offered themselves as models of civic virtue and have used popular culture and political rhetoric to consolidate their power and remake the city in their image. Schmidt argues that the political education provided by L.A. elites has been intentionally imperial and hierarchical, and that a transformation of the city’s politics will require a confrontation of its models of civic participation.

Unique in its use of urban politics to engage central questions of political theory, in its combination of cultural artifacts and political history, and in its attempt to connect the political culture of Los Angeles with American founding and refounding moments, This Is the City brings rare and sobering insight into the making of urban history and political culture in the United States.


This Is the City

Ronald J. Schmidt, Jr. is assistant professor of political science at the University of Southern Maine.

This Is the City

This story is not just about the city itself but about the ideas, images, and rhetoric that helped shape its politics and culture. This is a compelling book that provides a new way to look at how rhetoric and images shape political culture. It is a rich narrative of the elites, media, politicians, and citizens of Los Angeles. It is a book that is furthering our understanding of the development of political culture, the media, and civic education.

Perspectives on Politics

A study of politics, culture and media in Los Angeles over the last century or so, Ronald J. Schmidt, Jr. writes with a kind of confidence that is rare in academic scholarship. Entirely free of academic jargon.

Los Angeles Times Book Review