In Praise of Barbarians

Essays Against Empire

Winner: Lannan Foundation Nonfiction Literary Award, 2007

No writer in the United States today brings together analysis and history as comprehensively and elegantly as Mike Davis.

The author of City of Quartz and Planet of Slums attacks the current fashion for empires and white men’s burdens in this blistering collection of radical essays.

He skewers contemporary idols such as Mel Gibson, Niall Ferguson, and Howard Dean; unlocks some secret doors in the Pentagon and the California prison system; visits Star Wars in the Arctic and vigilantes on the border; predicts ethnic cleansing in New Orleans more than a year before Katrina; recalls the anarchist avengers of the 1890s and “teeny-bopper” riots on the Sunset Strip in the 1960s; discusses the moral bankruptcy of the Democrats in Kansas and West Virginia; remembers “Private Ivan,” who defeated fascism; and looks at the future of capitalism from the top of Hubbert's Peak.

About the author

Mike Davis is a MacArthur fellow as well as being a social commentator, urban theorist, and sociographer, and is best known for his investigations of class structures in his native Southern California. He is the author of many books including Ecology of Fear and The Monster at Our Door.


Watch Davis’ important recent speech, Seeing through the Smoke: Katrina and San Diego.


“Wear flame retardant gloves when you read In Praise of Barbarians: Essays Against Empire, because Mike Davis writes commentary that burns into each page…. Provocative is an understatement for Davis's lacerating and incendiary social and political analysis…. Davis writes in a style that transcends the historial moment. Picking up his book is like an intellectual roller coaster ride that keeps thrilling you with its pugnacious insights.”
To read the complete Buzzflash review, visit:

"Davis remains our penman of lost souls and lost scenarios: He culls nuggets of avarice and depredation the way miners chisel coal."
--The Nation

“A rare combination of an author, Rachel Carson and Upton Sinclair all in one.”
--Susan Faludi, author, Backlash

"Davis' work is the cruel and perpetual folly of the ruling elites."
--The New York Times

"Davis's range is stunning … He combines political economy, meteorology, and ecology with vivid narratives to create a book that is both a gripping read and a major conceptual achievement. Lots of us talk about writing 'world history' and 'inter-disciplinary history': here is the genuine article."
--Kenneth Pomeranz, author, The Great Divergence