In Palo Alto, the first comprehensive, global history of Silicon Valley, Malcolm Harris examines how and why Northern California evolved in the particular, consequential way it did, tracing the ideologies, technologies, and policies that have been engineered there over the course of 150 years of Anglo settler colonialism.
Cuts past the deceit, examining the histories the fable dresses up in heroic garb ... Harris reconsiders 200 years of history that many in the town would rather forget. Over more than 600 concussive pages, Harris narrates the town’s evolution and influence throughout the 19th and 20th centuries ... Palo Alto is a skeptic’s record, a vital, critical demonstration of Northern California’s two centuries of mixing technology and cruelty for money ... Even while attending to larger patterns, Palo Alto studiously works through the town’s history by focusing on its most famous and influential residents ... Harris demonstrates that the charming story with which we began, in which hippies freed the world by virtue of their genius and creativity, was always a convenient deception.
Aan encyclopedic account of the history and impact of the town—feels like the culmination of [Harris'] upbringing and career. It’s a stunning, Technicolor anvil of a book ... Palo Alto is far from the first history of the town, its residents, or its influence, but it is among the most capacious. Its strength lies in this very broadness, in the book’s determination to cover art and crime and drugs and economics and eugenics and robots and attempt to tie it all together as the story of modernity ... If Palo Alto is an imperfect frame for understanding a history as gargantuan as the one that Harris recounts, Palo Alto nonetheless manages to tell a story that is grand in its scope, startling in its specifics, and ingenious in the connections it draws.
Since 'California has a privileged place' in the capitalist story, and capitalism controls the world, this book aims to explain, well, pretty much everything. It does not succeed ... For Harris, as for Marx, capitalism is the root of all societal evil ... But what should replace this capitalist horror show once it’s been shattered? Harris never tells us ... It’s a cartoonishly negative and over-theorized portrait that bears little or no resemblance to the complex realities of California, capitalism or the world ... Harris’s seamless, all-explanatory narrative feels increasingly and weirdly teleological, like a cult belief system. Every fact fits perfectly into a truth that is already known; exceptions only prove the rule.