Planet of Slums
Verso, 2006, 228 pp.
ISBN: 1-84467-022-8 (hbk) 15.99 [pounds sterling]
ISBN: 1-84467-160-7 (pbk) 8.99 [pounds sterling]
'The vast shanty towns of Latin America (favelas, barrios, ranchos)', argues Henri Lefebvre (199o: 373-4), 'manifest a social life far more intense than the bourgeois districts of the cities. This social life is transposed onto the level of urban morphology, but it only survives inasmuch as it fights in self-defence and goes on the attack in the course of class struggle in its modern forms. Their poverty notwithstanding, these districts sometimes so effectively order their space--houses, walls, public spaces--as to elicit a nervous admiration.' It is, perhaps, with a similar sense of such nervous admiration that in Planet of Slums, Mike Davis has turned his attention to the spatial explosions evident in the growth of slums that mark late-twentieth-century capitalism in the Third World. At the same time, he also advances an excoriating critique of the neoliberal inequalities at the heart of urbanism in the Third World to reveal the burdens of underdevelopment and industrialisation carried by the urban poor. The result is a compelling and disturbing read.
The book has its origins in an article with the same title that Davis wrote for New Left Review in 2004. This earlier article sketched the parameters of the future history of mega-cities in the Third World, outlining the conditions of urbanism faced by an informal proletariat in cities that will account for all future world population growth, which is expected to peak at about 10 billion in 2050. Indeed, the majority of the world's poor will be living in urban slums by 2035. By 2025, the populations of these mega-cities will likely surpass Mexico City's current 22 million inhabitants, and include Jakarta with a projected 24.9 million, Dhaka (25 million), Karachi (26.5 million), and Mumbai (33 million), while second-tier cities such as Tijuana, Curitiba, Temuco, Salvador and Belem will see the fastest growth (Davis, 2004: 5, 7, 17). The book Planet of Slums picks up the agenda of this analysis by focusing in detail on the recent report of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), entitled The Challenge of the Slums: Global Report on Human Settlements (2003), while offering more detail on various 'case histories' of urbanism in the Third World. As a result, it contains discussion on issues of slum ecology, the urban sanitation...