State of Resistance

What California’s Dizzying Descent and Remarkable Resurgence Mean for America’s Future

A leading sociologist’s brilliant and revelatory argument that the future of politics, work, immigration, and more may be found in California

“As California goes, so goes the nation.” —Anonymous

Once upon a time, any mention of California triggered unpleasant reminders of Ronald Reagan and right-wing tax revolts, ballot propositions targeting undocumented immigrants, and racist policing that sparked two of the nation’s most devastating riots. In fact, California confronted many of the challenges the country faces now—decades before the rest of us.

Today, California is leading the way on addressing climate change, low-wage work, immigrant integration, overincarceration, and more. As white residents became a minority and job loss drove economic uncertainty, California had its own Trump moment twenty-five years ago but has become increasingly blue over each of the last seven presidential elections. How did the Golden State manage to emerge from its unsavory past to become a bellwether for the rest of the country?

Thirty years after Mike Davis’s hellish, dystopian depiction of California in City of Quartz, the award-winning sociologist Manuel Pastor guides us through a remarkably new and improved California, with lessons that the rest of the nation should heed. Inspiring and expertly researched, State of Resistance makes the case for honestly engaging racial anxiety in order to address our true economic and generational challenges, renewing our commitment to public investments, cultivating social movements and community organizing, and more.


“We should never underestimate what we can learn from history. Skilled storyteller and trusted movement educator Manuel Pastor gives us a unique view of recent California history and reveals a hopeful way forward for the whole country. Everyone who’s concerned about our nation’s current direction should read this book—for insight and inspiration.”
—Ai-jen Poo, director, National Domestic Workers Alliance
“In this fresh and insightful book, Manuel Pastor shows us that there is a way out of the political morass America finds itself in—and that California has already cleared the path. From the pain of a shattered social compact to the power of investing in the shared future of a diverse population, California’s recent history has important lessons to impart. . . . State of Resistance is not a call to arms but a call to reason.”
—Heather McGhee, president, Demos
“During a time of rising right-wing nationalism and Trumpism, State of Resistance gives us more than history, it gives us the shape our actions should take to build a more compassionate and inclusive society where people and the planet might thrive. This book is not just a call to action, it is also a call to hope.”
—john a. powell, director, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, UC Berkeley
“The story of California’s rise, fall, and resurgence is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how the state built a prosperous post-war economy, retreated from the American Dream in favor of race-baiting public policy in the face of changing demographics, then regained its promise with the leadership of communities of color. No one knows more about social movements than Dr. Pastor. He lets us see under the hood of so-called ‘protest movements’ to the sophisticated, multi-pronged strategy, developed and executed by everyday people with the most at stake.”
—Rinku Sen, founder of Race Forward
“Manuel Pastor thinks California is our future. I think he ’s right, if we survive to get there. But he ’s also got some useful guidance on how to make the trip.”
—Joel Rogers, director, Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS)
“Professor Pastor’s remarkable new book serves as both a powerful history lesson and an insightful vision for the future of our country. Having worked in politics during the era of Donald Trump, I believe that State of Resistance paints a brilliant picture of how our generation can seize the opportunity to forge a more inclusive, just, and prosperous America for every family.”
—Neera Tanden, president and CEO, Center for American Progress

News and Reviews

The New York Times


An op-ed by the author.

The New York Times

A Q&A with the author.

Los Angeles Times

An op-ed by the author.