Many of us who teach college courses on California history focus a portion of the class on the Great Depression. Often framed as both preludes to and influences on the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration’s New Deal, popular movements such as guaranteed income to the state’s senior citizens through the Townsend Plan and Upton Sinclair’s ill-fated run for governor on the End Poverty in California (EPIC) platform make the case for studying California to understand the state’s influence on national trends and broader patterns. Yet there is surprisingly little scholarship contextualizing these and other “utopian schemes” for which Los Angeles, especially, became an ideal environment in the 1930s. Thus, explanations for why Southern California was at the center of such movements often revert to those used by cultural commentators of the period. Author Nathanael West, for instance, in his classic 1939 novel Day of the Locust, depicted the thousands of...
Review: In Pursuit of Utopia: Los Angeles in the Great Depression, by Errol Wayne Stevens
NICOLAS G. ROSENTHAL is a professor of history at Loyola Marymount University, where his teaching and research focus on Indigenous, California, and U.S. history. He is the author of Reimagining Indian Country: Native American Migration and Identity in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles (2012) and is at work on a history of Indigenous artists in the twentieth century.
Nicolas G. Rosenthal; Review: In Pursuit of Utopia: Los Angeles in the Great Depression, by Errol Wayne Stevens. California History 1 May 2023; 100 (2): 120–122. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ch.2023.100.2.120
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