According to the United Nations, more than one billion people now live in the slums of the cities of the South. In this brilliant and ambitious book, Mike Davis explores the future of a radically unequal and explosively unstable urban world. From the sprawling barricadas of Lima to the garbage hills of Manila, urbanization has been disconnected from industrialization, and even from economic growth. Davis portrays a vast humanity warehoused in shantytowns and exiled from the formal world economy. He argues that the rise of this informal urban proletariat is a wholly unforeseen development, and asks whether the great slums, as a terrified Victorian middle class once imagined, are volcanoes waiting to erupt.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
1 The Urban Climacteric 1
2 The Prevalence of Slums 20
3 The Treason of the State 50
4 Illusions of Self-Help 70
5 Haussmann in the Tropics 95
6 Slum Ecology 121
7 SAPing the Third World 151
8 A Surplus Humanity? 174
Epilogue: Down Vietnam Street 199
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An important and sobering book, but not the easiest read. Each paragraph is filled with so many different stats and numbers that it requires some effort to distill the main points. That said, Davis backs up his points and the book is an eye opening view of our urban world.
Important topic treated comprehensively, but the pages are so full of statistics that the narrative loses traction very quickly.
A detailed and footnoted book full a history that is not usually spoken of in the west. That our comfortable lives have come at the cost of sending a billion other humans into the slums to survive. At times heavily written but the subject matter was gripping. I won't com,plaine about my old house as much now.
MacArthur fellow Mike Davis hunkers down and attempts to produce a readable synthesis of the enormous body of current literature on global urban poverty in this book, which ends up averaging about four footnotes per page. The general adherence to hard fact makes it difficult for Davis' usual theoretical insight to shine through, but the urgency of the subject matter more than compensates. Required reading.
My sister was all "Martin, is this my kind of nonfiction or Stephen's kind of nonfiction?" but it's neither intensely theoretical and aggravating nor highly conversational and informative, at least not entirely. What it is is a fairly dense but still readable sketch of our world, our real world, that - hence the title - doesn't shirk reminding us that the "global slum" really is becoming the predominant living environment of humankind. Davis is so good at being drily factual that it takes time for it to sneak up on you that this is actually a polemic, and an extremely invigorating one. Proposition the first: We are a species of slumdwellers. The second: Our governments have failed us (when they haven't actually been trying to wipe us away). The third: Healthwise they are a disaster. The fourth: Economically slumdwellers are mostly invisible, virtually unhelpable, and unanimously exploited, despite the fetishization of microcredit and informal economic activity by neoliberal dogma and the Bretton Woods institutions (how refreshing to see microcredit get a finger in the eye instead of a pious obeisance, although I wish he would have spent more time really demonstrating that the people whose tiny stake just amounts to working themselves further into slavery are more numerous than the ones who are actually building something). The fifth: More and more people are falling into direr and direr straits worldwide (viz. the former Soviet bloc). It would have been interesting to get more of a handle on exactly WHY this deluge of new urbanites (I know, I know, as if rampant lawlessness and horror in the countryside, perceived economic opportunity in the cities, and policies that squeeze the urban middle classes down and the rural peasantry sideways and then down aren't enough). But when Davis ends figuring the future as Orwellian surveillance v. chaos and rage, it's sober, not a little chilling, and a lot more convincing than the George Bush version.
One comes away from reading 'Planet of Slums' with a far-reaching, well-documented sense of poverty's vast urban scale and its topology. As to the causes and possible solutions, we are left wanting. Globalization, the IMF, World Bank and NGOs are singled out for guilt by association as though slum growth and exploitation of the urban underclass are unintended consequences of ill-conceived development and aid policies. However, a clear analysis of this pattern and direct linkages between slum growth and development policies get lost in the book's focus on demographic statistics, urbanization trends and descriptions of dire circumstances from one ghetto to the next. Finally, in searching for solutions, there are none on these pages except by inference, or perhaps by extension, through revolution. We are left thinking that since global lending, aid organizations, government urban planning and property owner powers are the indicated cause, then thwarting them or doing the opposite must be part of the solution. I was left wondering, where is the model to point the way out of the urban slum?