Security and Surveillance

Los Angeles Police and Land Abuses in Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice

  • Antonio Di Vilio
Keywords: Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice, police, surveillance, paranoia


On the theoretical backdrop of Foucault’s studies about the space and Deleuze’s inquiry on the society of control, this article aims to question the meaning of civil rights and freedom in an ultra-monitored society, within Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. This novel, in fact, provides not only a precise historical account of Los Angeles in the late Sixties but also a reflection about police and government policies concerning the process of reorganization of the space in Los Angeles and the several public disorder episodes connected to these policies. In the form of a detective fiction, Pynchon continues the investigation on Los Angeles land abuse carried out by Mike Davis and Edward Soja’s essays (such as City of Quartz and Thirdspace) on the postmodern metropolis par excellence. In fact, land speculation, segregation, inequality and racial violence were just some of the rotted fruits that fell out of the ruthless government tree. Pynchon explores the relationship between federals and magnates, the urgency of making Los Angeles a theme-park paradise, the utopia city par excellence, the dreaming of prosperity and flourishing that created an atmosphere of terror and paranoia. On the other side, the counterculture, hippies, groups, communities and all those who had been segregated geographically or ideologically, tried to feed their ethnic and cultural identity against the flatland developers. Starting from this ideological battlefield, this article moves to analyze the nature of late capitalism logic consequences in the Los Angeles civil rights era, and how the countercultural utopia was doomed often in behalf of social injustice and racial restrictions.