There are over 200,000 slums on earth, situated in some of the most geologically unsound and polluted landscapes. The favelas of Rio de Janiero rest on unstable soils that regularly give way, whole areas of Manila are built on stilts over excrement-clogged rivers, and in Cairo more than a million people use Mameluke Tombs as dwellings, whilst smaller groups are living in abandoned Jewish cemeteries. This brilliant book outlines the catastrophic future of a "surplus humanity" exiled from the formal world economy. It delivers a scathing critique of the retreat of the state and the impact of the "civil society revolution" - which has de-radicalised urban social movements - together with the emergence of bootstrap micro-entrepreneurial remedies, benefiting a small minority and doing nothing to halt the rapid growth of urban poverty. Davis concludes with a provocative take on the "war on terror" as an incipient world war between the American empire and "feral, failed cities", imagining a future of "Orwellian technologies of repression" and a daily response from the slums of "suicide bombers and eloquent explosions". Aimee Shalan, The Guardian --The Guardian
Planet of Slums, by Mike Davis (Verso £8.99) Written in terse, staccato style, this account of some of the world's great slum metropolises is a tough read, urgent and fact-clogged but what facts they are. The poor are ferociously overcrowded (there are four million in one megaslum in Mexico City) and often live on unstable geology or even rubbish dumps, such as the evocatively-named Quarantina outside Beirut. In Cairo, a million people live in the Mameluke Tombs. In Mumbai, an equal number live on the pavements. Some 99.4 per cent of the urban population of Ethiopia live in slums. It comes as no surprise to discover that Baghdad contains one of the world's biggest slum areas. CH --The Independent
With a third of the global urban population already living in Dickensian slums, at least half under the age of twenty, Mike Davis explores the threat of disease, of forced settlement on hazardous terrains, and of state violence on huge populations. He shows also how poverty not only grew massively in the 1990s but how the gap between rich and poor countries expanded and how women and minorities fell further behind. Surveying the new urban poor from Bombay to Cairo, Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, Mike Davis argues that this enormous population of marginalised labourers is not an industrious beehive of ambitious entrepreneurs but a stagnant ferment of extreme Darwinian competition which threatens to overflow the shanty-towns, and swamp the homes and businesses of the urban rich.
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