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Planet of Slums

The classic, brilliant, best-selling account of the rise of the world’s slums, where, according to the United Nations, one billion people now live
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.

Reviews

  • “A profound enquiry into an urgent subject … a brilliant book.”
  • “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 programs leading to a massive transfer of wealth from rich to poor … Like the work of Jacob Riis, Ida Tarbell, and Lincoln Steffens over a century ago, this searing indictment makes the shame of our cities urgently clear.”
  • “The Raymond Chandler of urban geography … In Planet of Slums, Davis’s genre is the global disaster movie, as directed by the chroniclers of Victorian poverty: Engels, Booth and Dickens. The scale of modern squalor revealed in his brilliant survey dwarfs its predecessors … a coruscating tragedy.”
  • “The astonishing facts hit like anvil blows … Davis has produced a heartbreaking book that hammers the reader a little further into the ground with the blow of each new and shocking statistic.”
  • “A terrifying, magisterial work.”
  • “There can be no doubt about the achievement of Planet of Slums … it forces us, angrily, to confront the deplorable realities of slum existence and the limitations of slum policies in many developing countries.”
  • “While many case studies have described what it means to reside in a favela, basti, kampung, gecekondu or bidonville, Davis provides a properly global portrait … And whereas urban specialists have focused on questions of space and land use in their discussions of slums, and developmentalists on the issue of their ‘informal economies’, Planet of Slums commands our attention as a broader historical synthesis of the two.”
  • “Davis’s descriptions of the conditions endured by slum-dwellers provide reason enough to read this book. His analysis is full of gripping stories from globalization’s frontline.”
  • “Packed with rigorous analysis and heart-stopping facts, this is a brilliant exploration of how millions of poor city-dwellers worldwide are being driven to the squalid periurban shadowlands of today’s megaslums … Davis’s book is absolutely vital reading.”

Blog

  • Rebel Cities, Urban Resistance and Capitalism: a Conversation with David Harvey

    This transcript of Vincent Emanuele's interview with David Harvey appeared first in Counterpunch.


    March from El Alto to La Paz, June 2011.


    Emanuele:
    You begin your book Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, by describing your experience in Paris during the 1970s: “Tall building-giants, highways, soulless public housing and monopolized commodification on the streets threatening to engulf the old-Paris… Paris from the 1960s on was plainly in the midst of an existential crisis.” In 1967, Henry Lefebvre wrote his seminal essay “On the Right to the City.” Can you talk about this period and the impetus for writing Rebel Cities? 

    Harvey: Worldwide, the 1960s is often looked at, historically, as a period of urban crisis. In the United States, for example, the 1960s was a time when many central cities went up in flames. There were riots and near revolutions in cities like Los Angeles, Detroit, and of course after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 — over 120 American cities were inflicted with minor and massive social unrest and rebellious action. I mention this in the United States, because what was in-effect happening was that the city was being modernized.

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  • Infrastructures of Empire and Resistance


    Demolition of "The Jungle" migrant camp in Calais, October 2016. 

    In late October 2016, I packed my bags for a short trip abroad, leaving a region raw with struggle over the racial and colonial violence of infrastructure. In places like Standing Rock, Flint, Muskrat Falls, Toronto, and Baltimore, conflicts raged over the targeted violence of energy, water, border, and policing systems. Movements for Black lives, for migrants’ rights, for indigenous sovereignty, and for economic and environmental justice were increasingly mapping violent infrastructure systems with their direct actions and analyses. The water protectors’ camps at Standing Rock were large and growing, animated by spirit, ceremony, and unprecedented gathering as they halted the Dakota Access Pipeline. The largest prison strike in history, 45 years after the Attica uprising, was calling out the inhumanity of American carceral infrastructure. Black organizers were denouncing infrastructure crises like the one poisoning Flint, Michigan, suggesting these would be the defining struggles for Black communities to come. More than 50 Indigenous Nations from across Turtle Island had just signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, with the goal of protecting Indigenous lands and waters from all proposed pipeline, tanker, and rail projects. In my hometown of Toronto, Black Lives Matter members were making claims for the protection of “Black Infrastructure.” Blockades of damns, ports, highways, and rail infrastructure had become frequent news virtually everywhere, except for in the reporting of the mainstream media.

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  • Buda’s Wagon: The Gates of Hell

    Mike Davis writing on history and the city has been celebrated across the world. To mark the significance of his work, we're re-releasing his classic works in these beautiful new editions and we have 40% off all his writing until Jan 22.

    Here we present an extract from Buda’s Wagon, Davis' brilliant and disturbing 100-year history of the “poor man’s air force,” the ubiquitous weapon of urban mass destruction

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Other books by Mike Davis