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The Dark Side of the Silicon Gold Rush

Acclaimed urban geographer Richard Walker puts the Bay Area’s tech boom into historical and social context in his new book.
relates to The Dark Side of the Silicon Gold Rush
Robert Galbraith/Reuters

Pictures of a Gone City is the culmination of the life’s work of Richard A. Walker, a professor emeritus of geography at the University of California, Berkeley. A student of the great Marxist geographer David Harvey, Walker brings a profoundly historical approach to his scholarship. His lens spans economics, urban design, politics, and the environment, to name just a few of his interests.

Walker’s new book is urban geography for our times. It illuminates the basic crisis and contradiction of the San Francisco Bay Area, which is an example of capitalism at its most innovative and dynamic, and simultaneously the site of severe inequality and failing public policies and infrastructure. Walker has lived and worked in the Bay Area for most of his life. I was delighted to speak with him about topics ranging from the real geographic definition of the Bay Area, to its history of innovation (stretching back to the Gold Rush days), to the contemporary movements that might help the Bay Area reclaim its radical roots.