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Planet of Slums

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  2,231 ratings  ·  237 reviews
Mike Davis charts the expected global urbanization explosion over the next 30 years and points out that outside China most of the rest of the world's urban growth will be without industrialization or development, rather a 'peverse' urban boom in spite of stagnant or negative urban economic growth.
Hardcover, 228 pages
Published March 1st 2006 by Verso
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Malcolm Little Not having solutions, especially those for the large scale slums exist in, doesn't mean one shouldn't bring to light the problems Davis mentioned. The…moreNot having solutions, especially those for the large scale slums exist in, doesn't mean one shouldn't bring to light the problems Davis mentioned. The author explicitly stated that he doesn't claim to have the answer to reducing the slum phenomenon without introducing a host of other issues.

That said, looking at the footnotes & endnotes provides bibliographical info on academics and economists who do put forth claims of solutions. Best to trawl through them and read their articles.(less)

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This is one long howl of rage, interspersed with shockingly brief lucid sections, followed by another info dump of ineffable horror. You know how in The Dark Knight there's that line, "Some men just want to watch the world burn"? Mike Davis would like to inform you that the world is burning, that it is your fault, and that there is nothing that you can do to stop it. If this were the Middle Ages, Davis would have made a fine living as a fire and brimstone preacher, leading rows of self-flagellat ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m going to include some quotes at the end of this review from the book itself - I’ve added page numbers, but since I’ve the e-book version I’m not sure how they relate to the page numbers in the print book. I found this book utterly fascinating. If you can get your hands on it, I would highly recommend it.

One of the ideas that particularly interested me was the reason given for why the growth of slums occurred when it did, rather than earlier in the twentieth century say. In large part this wa
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
relentlessly bleak. begins bordering on poverty porn, with a deluge of horrifying stats, then morphs into a lucid analysis of why slums exploded in the wake of decolonization + what housing, sanitation, and work are like for the over 1 billion people who are confined in them today. t/o the work Davis differentiates b/w two overlapping groups, the global informal working class and the slum population, and thinks through how neoliberal policies have fueled the growth of each. the extent to which e ...more
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
The subject of this book doesn't get very much mainstream media attention, other than the occasional tangential mention. It is sort of overwhelming when one reads chapter after chapter on the enormous (and growing) slums of the world.

The author, Mike Davis (almost as old as I am), writer, political activist, urban theorist, historian. One time member of CORE, SDS.

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Previous review: Childhood's End
Random review: The Sold
Emma Sea
Dec 25, 2014 rated it really liked it

man, we've fucked everything up, haven't we.

David M
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Because things are the way they are, things cannot stay the way they are." - Bertolt Brecht

This book is filled with descriptions of degradation that truly beggar belief. Millions of people living in shit. A growing market for the organs of the poor. Child labor that exceeds even the most harrowing accounts in Capital.

Living up to its title, a global survey. Davis is endlessly attentive, curious, compassionate. Personally I found some of the most, er, memorable stops to be in Varanasi, Kinshasa
Jan 10, 2009 rated it liked it
This was certainly an interesting book and after finishing it I understand more about the topic - the world's slums and the back-slipping that seems to be happening for the urban poor). That said, I do think this is probably the most grim and sensational version that could have possibly been painted. Universally critical of all governments, classes, NGOs and other international organizations, the author takes the stance that absolutely nobody really knows how to handle this problem and anything ...more
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 pain
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Seismic hazard is the fine print in the devil's bargain of informal housing..

Planet of Slums begins as a torrent of statistics. One is easily lost in the scale of such misery. Debt management is the devil, even if we have to invent one. The restructuring of such debt has human consequences. Our feel good antidote is the micro-credits of Herman DeSoto. Despite our own fortune, we like those stories of empowerment, however unlikely such remain. This is the majority narrative of what it means to be
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this book gave me an intense and depressing sense of deja vu. It was published in 2006, the year I finished my undergrad degree. I remember writing various essays about the problems of informal urban settlements in the developing world, in other words slums. Davis’ book is a devastating indictment of how neoliberal capitalism and the Washington Consensus created unimaginable levels of urban poverty in the developing world. (He calls it the Third World, but that term has since gone out of ...more
Dear little Swallow," said the Prince, "you tell me of marvellous things, but more marvellous than anything is the suffering of men and of women. There is no Mystery so great as Misery. Fly over my city, little Swallow, and tell me what you see there." - Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince.

There are at least four ways that this book can be read. Much depends, of course on the positioning of the reader.

First, straight up, as a catalogue of some truly horrific evidence of what human beings are able to d
Jul 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Good luck figuring out what to do with yourself once you've finished this book. The title might sound hyperbolic, but Davis underpins his terrifying thesis exhaustively with this tidal-wave-o'-super-scary-facts-delivered-nonchalantly prose style, which, along with the occasional offhand allusion to Bladerunner and the profligate use of the adjective "Orwellian," makes this probably the scariest thing I have ever, ever read.

Which is not to say it isn't also incredibly erudite and well researched
Dec 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
People sometimes ask me to recommend good books about cities and architecture; it's a pretty hard question - for the most part, contemporary urbanism is a vast wasteland of aesthetic critique lacking any social context. About the only writer I can recommend on these subjects is Mike Davis. Planet of Slums is an amazing book that describes the develop of and life in the shantytowns that are on the margins of cities across the Global South - that is, the cities were most people already live, and ...more
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: work, reporting, slums
Seriously, because once you read this, the Olympics looks even worse. Davis' book is very readable and wonderfully cited information about slums. It looks at the development and how various governments respond to it. If you have read Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, this is a good companion to that book for it focuses on more global facts than individual stories. ...more
Jun 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
probably the most important thing you can read.
else fine
Nov 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm not going to lie: this is dry. Really, really dry. I like dry, as a general rule, or at least it doesn't bother me - but this? Man. Maybe it's because the things he covers are so wrenchingly, horribly emotional and in order to get through it with any objectivity he had to cloak himself in boringness. At any rate, the information is valuable - maybe critical - and well worth wading through the whole of the text. The glimpse of our urban future that Davis provides is one we need to look at, ha ...more
Aug 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
A very disturbing book well written with alot of footnotes and statistics. No solutions were put forth.

Jan 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this a few years back and am rereading it now. It's a bit of a downer, i must warn you. It turns out slums are not as fun as they seem.
David Anderson
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A chilling and enraging indictment of the effects of colonialism, neo-colonialism, and neoliberalism upon the urban areas of the Global South, in particular the Structural Adjustment Programs imposed by the World Bank and IMF which have brought the underdeveloped nations to their knees. Even more important today as the chickens are coming home to roost in form of the similar austerity regimes being imposed in most nations of the developed West. An absolutely vital book for all progressives, 5 st ...more
Frank Stein
Mike Davis apparently took those complaints about his slippery relationship to the truth to heart, because this slim book is loaded down with footnotes. Unfortunately most of those cite just a select handful of left-wing texts, and even they often disagree with each other as to the reality of slum life in the Third World. Davis does nothing to reconcile them.

As far as I can tell from the book Davis never visited one of the slums he writes about, he never did any independent primary source resear
Mar 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I was very deeply impacted by this book—it left me crying pretty violently numerous times, both as I read it and afterwards when I thought of it. Mike Davis writes about the situation of urban peripheral poverty in Third World Countries, illustrating their historical development and inhumane living situations (sanitary and physical dangers aside, Davis writes of diminishing solidarity, growing exploitation and competition; governments have also pretty much abandoned them, instead opting to crimi ...more
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is more relevant now than ever. Developing economies are facing a perfect storm worldwide. As the global financial crisis tightens its grip on developed economies, their demand for imported products and services as well as basic commodities, has plummeted, leaving emerging economies in an unprecedented state of vulnerability. Millions of people live in the megacities of these countries and their corrupt governments have fewer resources at their disposal to mitigate the effects of the c ...more
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book one enters the nightmare world of the urban poor who dominate the Third World whose position has been much harmed by the neoliberal policies of the IMF/World Bank dictated by the US Washington Consensus. Perhaps the global future was inevitable of the transition from country dwellers to urban slum inhabitants of 90% of the world's population with the rich in their gated communities terrified of them. A book that must be read.
Dry, statistical -- familiar ground, and a bit out of date (published 2006 and based on projections going back to 2004).

Davis blames IMF shock policies over the internally driven tendency of modern "silicon" capitalism to decouple production growth from employment -- which is not fully persuasive. Still, a frightening portrait.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mike Davis is one of the angriest men on the planet-- with good reason. If you want to learn more about the horrors of modern global capitalism, and I believe you should, then look no further than this book as a little introduction to the suffering and utter destitution of the majority of the world's people in this time of unprecedented decadence in the imperial core.
Nicole Means
Apr 17, 2017 rated it liked it
An essential Mike Davis explores in "Planet of Slums" is what kind of world do we live in where we are more concerned with meeting our own creature comforts than trying to help millions of people who are exposed to epidemics, solely because they lack access to clean water? Unfortunately, there are no answers, but Davis provides ample research to prove the inequalities that exist in today's urban areas. For instance, cholera, once thought to have dissipated during the Victorian era, still poses a ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Ugh. Now that wasn’t exactly uplifting. Mike Davis’ (2006) ‘Planet of Slums’ looks at the more than 1 billion people living in slums, expected to reach 2 billion people within the next 10 years. Yes, within a few years, like one in 5 or so people will live this semi-death of urban slum hell, thanks to the triage of humanity under global capitalism. In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 2 in 3 of the urban peeps live in slums. This is what urbanization without industrialization looks like. This is also wh ...more
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terrifying. Hard to read because of the endless descriptions of worldwide slum conditions/the effects of global capital (although it's 'neoliberalism' which is given explicit blame here). Great takedown of De Soto and the whole 'informal labour' debate. Something which is constantly relevant.
A lot of dumb reviews here complaining about the lack of a 'solution' it's quite obvious what the 'solution' entails. But the deeply depressing 'war' epilogue shows us how vast the challenge would be to resi
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can't believe how much the top reviewer on here projected onto Davis from this book. I thought the writing was very lucid and measured given the subject matter. "Mike Davis would like to inform you that the world is burning, that it is your fault, and that there is nothing that you can do to stop it." as if a poor person would never read this lmao.

like dude I was 11 years old when this was published. not taking it personally. big world out there.

This book's a little old and I have to do some m
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Urbanization was once an indicator of development, economically and socially. The growth of cities since the Industrial Revolution has put the city at the crux of the matter as a node that connects social and economic networks. However, the linear and evolutionary understanding of history and modernity was disproved by the dysfunctional operation of city structures and the social problems embedded in it. Modern is not necessarily a positive attribute. The city as such has been the most visual ex ...more
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Mike Davis is a social commentator, urban theorist, historian, and political activist. He is best known for his investigations of power and social class in his native Southern California. He is the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award. He lives in San Diego.

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