While many other political commentators have told California’s story as a tale of charismatic gubernatorial leadership, or of the technology giants’ economic wizardry and world domination, Pastor’s analysis is far more nuanced—and far more useful. Most importantly, Pastor is the rare political observer who sees through the senselessness of the seemingly perennial question: 'Does our country have an economic problem or a race problem?' Of course it is both ... It may well be that the damage we see to our institutions and to our collective trust is far worse under the Trump administration than it ever was in California’s bleakest days, but Pastor’s book, in many ways the culmination of a career studying the positive-sum relationships between economic growth and social equity, still offers pragmatic lessons for national politics.
In his book, which is concise, clear and convincing, he contends that the redemptive arc of modern California’s history offers both cautionary and constructive guidance on a vision for the country as a whole ... Pastor is an academic sociologist, and this part of his book is written more in sociologese than the rest, including its extensive discussion of 'intersectionality,' the overlapping effects of barriers of race, gender, class and other inequalities. But it ends with a list of practical lessons that can be drawn from California’s recent history to the national politics of coming years.
It’s a lot to pack into roughly 200 pages (minus notes), but Pastor pulls it off. He is a knowledgeable guide who writes with fluid authority that is accessible but detailed. Furthermore, his book is no facile defense of exceptionalism but rather a nuanced examination of both the state’s complicity in pioneering various destructive policies (reckless tax cutting, anti-immigrant efforts at the ballot box) and its emergence, in the aftermath, as a new political and social landscape, intersectional and built from the grass roots up ... Provocative and deftly argued, Pastor's book reminds us that the future is unwritten and that it always has deep roots in, and connections to, the past.