Synopses & Reviews
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, even 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 original development unforeseen by either classical Marxism or neoliberal theory.
Are the great slums, as a terrified Victorian middle class once imagined, volcanoes waiting to erupt? Davis provides the first global overview of the diverse religious, ethnic, and political movements competing for the souls of the new urban poor. He surveys Hindu fundamentalism in Bombay, the Islamist resistance in Casablanca and Cairo, street gangs in Cape Town and San Salvador, Pentecostalism in Kinshasa and Rio de Janeiro, and revolutionary populism in Caracas and La Paz.Planet of Slums ends with a provocative meditation on the "war on terrorism" as an incipient world war between the American empire and the new slum poor.
"Urban theorist Davis takes a global approach to documenting the astonishing depth of squalid poverty that dominates the lives of the planet's increasingly urban population, detailing poor urban communities from Cape Town and Caracas to Casablanca and Khartoum. Davis argues health, justice and social issues associated with gargantuan slums (the largest, in Mexico City, has an estimated population of 4 million) get overlooked in world politics: 'The demonizing rhetorics of the various international 'wars' on terrorism, drugs, and crime are so much semantic apartheid: they construct epistemological walls around gecekondus, favelas, and chawls that disable any honest debate about the daily violence of economic exclusion.' Though Davis focuses on individual communities, he presents statistics showing the skyrocketing population and number of 'megaslums' (informally, 'stinking mountains of shit' or, formally, 'when shanty-towns and squatter communities merge in continuous belts of informal housing and poverty, usually on the urban periphery') since the 1960s. Layered over the hard numbers are a fascinating grid of specific area studies and sub-topics ranging from how the Olympics has spurred the forceful relocation of thousands (and, sometimes, hundreds of thousands) of the urban poor, to the conversion of formerly second world countries to third world status. Davis paints a bleak picture of the upward trend in urbanization and maintains a stark outlook for slum-dwellers' futures." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In this trenchantly argued book, Mike Davis quantifies the nightmarish mass production of slums that marks the contemporary city. With cool indignation, Davis argues that the exponential growth of slums is no accident but the result of a perfect storm of corrupt leadership, institutional failure, and IMF-imposed Structural Adjustment Programs leading to a massive transfer of wealth from poor to rich. Scourge of neo-liberal nostrums, Davis debunks the irresponsible myth of self-help salvation, showing exactly who gets the boot from 'bootstrap capitalism.' Like the work of Jacob Riis, Ida Tarbell, and Lincoln Steffans over a century ago, this searing indictment makes the shame of our cities urgently clear." Michael Sorkin
"A profound enquiry into an urgent subject ... a brilliant book." Arundhati Roy
A celebrated urban theorist lifts the lid on the effects of a global explosion of disenfranchised slum-dwellers. In this brilliant and ambitious book, Davis explores the future of a radically unequal and explosively unstable urban world.
Celebrated urban theorist lifts the lid on the effects of a global explosion of disenfranchised slum-dwellers.
About the Author
Mike Davis is the author of several books including City of Quartz, Ecology of Fear, Late Victorian Holocausts, and Magical Urbanism. He was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He lives in Papa'aloa, Hawaii.