03 | A Political Scientist Analyzes How Coalitions Affect Regional Government
For incisive looks at the factors influencing the politics of that great conglomerate – the city of Los Angeles – the books of political scientist Raphael Sonenshein are essential reading. He is the author of Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles and The City at Stake: Secession, Reform, and the Battle for Los Angeles. He served as executive director of a commission charged with creating the city’s first new charter in 75 years – a charter later approved by an overwhelming majority of voters.
“I’ve always been interested in racial politics, even before I moved to LA in 1974,”
Sonenshein says. “How do people manage to overcome differences to work together to achieve common goals? But then I became an intern in [former mayor] Tom Bradley’s office and became really fascinated. I’ve been hooked on coalition politics ever since.”
His longstanding interest in history has recently expanded to include geography. He is collaborating with CSUF geographer Mark Drayse on research into immigration and politics. “The central issue of our time, in terms of how we live our daily lives, is probably the role that new generations of immigrants will play in our society and how Americans see immigrants’ role: as contributors to or a drain on society,” he says.
Sonenshein is committed to teaching as well as research. “We are educating the backbone and leadership of the next California. That’s a huge responsibility, and one that makes us essential to the state. I love teaching students who work as hard as ours do, both in and out of the classroom. They will be very well prepared for leadership roles.”