Andrew's Reviews > Planet of Slums

Planet of Slums by Mike Davis
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's review
Apr 17, 2011

bookshelves: neoliberalism-and-postmodernity, policy-and-social-commentary
Read in April, 2011

Mike Davis doesn't like you. You unwitting colluder with the atrocities of late-stage capitalism. That's right, child of the first world, the blood is on your hands.

I read City of Quartz. I liked City of Quartz. Planet of Slums is like City of Quartz, but it's not just LA that's fucked, it's everywhere. Neoliberalism builds the garbage cities of Manila, the City of the Dead in Cairo, the great spiraling nightmare that is Kibera in Nairobi. Davis is an exceptionally talented reporter, and he paints a stunning portrait of the slum world.

But it is is a Grand Guignol of third world poverty, and there's something weirdly pandering about it. His history of what causes slums is minimal and weakly supported, and no policy suggestions are made, even tentatively. The globalists and DeSoto-ites don't care. They fully believe their market panaceas will cleanse the slums, and recite the mantra of trade liberalization with the faith and determination of sadhus.

And he doesn't seem to take into account the human element of the slums other than their sheer misery and squalor. It's ultimately a privileged-class perspective in which his writings transform the slum from a place of living humans into an object of transfixing horror. Good for agit-prop, yes, but it totally feels like he's writing it from a comfortable office in Southern California. I'd like to hear more from the slum-dwellers themselves, and about their lives.
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message 1: by Donna (new)

Donna "But it is is a Grand Guignol of third world poverty, and there's something weirdly pandering about it."
I get reading too many of these, and I start to wonder if I'm like the rich Victorians who used to go on slum tours.

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