Planet of Slums

The celebrated urban historian’s bestselling account of the global explosion of slums.
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.


  • “The astonishing facts hit like anvil blows ... A heartbreaking book.”
  • “Davis's prose exudes a crusading fervour – if not exactly messianic, close enough.”
  • “If it's apocalypse you want—and frankly who doesn't, because how else to explain the mess we're in—nobody does it better.”
  • “The Raymond Chandler of urban geography ... a coruscating tragedy.”
  • “A profound enquiry into an urgent subject ... a brilliant book.”


  • A New Electorate: Mike Davis on Clinton, Trump, and Sanders

    In an interview with Maria-Christina Vogkli and George Souvlis that first appeared on the LSE Researching Sociology blog, Mike Davis reflects on his upringing and discusses the 2016 US Presidential primaries. 

    1) Could you please tell us a bit about your family background?

    My family background is distinctive only in being impossibly average. My dad came from a rural Protestant background in Ohio and was a fervent New Deal Democrat. My mom was an urban Irish Catholic and a registered Republican, but twice voted for the Socialist candidate Norman Thomas. She equally adored President Eisenhower and Liberace.  Both were high-school graduates. Apart from the Vulgate Bible we had no books in our home, but my father was an avid newspaper reader (sports and politics) and my mom devoured the Reader’s Digest cover to cover. My dad worked in the wholesale meat industry in a strangely hybrid white collar/blue collar job. His workday was equally divided between sales calls, fabrication of orders, and delivering meat. Our family income, home mortgage, car value, hours spent watching TV, and so on were always the national median during the 1950s. (I’ve researched this). I grew up in a 1947 tract home on the exact border between the last subdivision and the remaining orange and avocado orchards of east San Diego County.

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  • In Defense of Housing: David Madden dispels five myths about public housing

    David Madden, co-author of the forthcoming housing justice book In Defense of Housing: The Politics of Crisis, recently demystified popular conceptions of public housing in The Washington Post. Madden's opinion piece in the Post comes as David Simon’s HBO miniseries "Show Me a Hero" brings the legacy and future of public housing development to the fore. The show depicts the clashes over federally mandated public housing developments in Yonkers, NY during the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

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  • New Left Review - Issue 93 out now

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Other books by Mike Davis