If you walk around Palo Alto, even in what’s supposed to be its industrial districts, it’s hard to see any industry. There aren’t any factories, you don’t see any smoke stacks. There aren’t even any big buildings. Despite this being one of the most productive industrial areas of the post-war era. And that’s from the beginning, the town was very concerned with how they could combine high-tech production with the sort of suburban benefits that would lure the kind of people who they wanted to work in this high-tech production and so they made all sorts of zoning rules: like grassy set-backs and height limitations for the buildings and so even in these buildings where you have the real heart of cold-war American industry going on there are these little buildings that look like dentist’s offices and they’re hiding behind bushes and these grassy lawns. And it’s doing so very intentionally. And so you’ve created a town, you designed a town, that exists to hide itself from itself.
We have on Malcolm Harris to talk about his recent book Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World.