on 29 December 2011
As somebody who has lived in many cities (Ankara, Zurich, Glasgow, London, Freiburg, LA, Dubai) it is good to read a positive take on immigration and the benefits immigration can bring. It is certainly true that many mobile people are driven and often more ambitious that the local communities, after all immigrants really have to work for their livelihoods and are looking for a better lot out of life. Certainly existing communities have choices in how they attract immigration and then support them. The principle that communities should look to manage and actively help immigrants to make economic and social success out of immigration is a powerful argument. History is also full of examples of bad laws and attempts to shut down, knock down and impoverish others, often because of ones own failings and insecurities. So, if migration is not understood and dealt with out of fear the communities will be worse off, that is all will be worse off. This book makes the point well.
However the book could do more to explore how communities facing migration need to watch out for those immigrants who are part of the immigration loop who thrive on taking advantage of good people and then move to the next boom town. The book lacks the human storey side of Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. Point is that migration can be great but migrant communities also discriminate and can be cruel within them selves and to new waves of migrants from other places that is no longer their own home village. So part of assimilating migrants needs to involve the principle of accepting other migrants and local customs. This principle of accepting diversity of customs and the wealth it brings needs to be accepted early on. It also nees to be accepted that the current migrant community will hopefully be middle class, if upward mobility is available, but that they will need to show help and tolerance to the next wave.
What are principles that make migration work? Wanting home and land ownership? Access to education and health care? Keeping places clean? Sharing a common language? Jobs? Tolerance? the book could be clearer about articulating the commonalities. Also, what is the role of IOM, UN, EU etc...in migration is there the principle of enough migration? especially given the limited world resources? is it right to prevent migration to preserve the environment or is it ever right?
Over all the book is informative though still clearly written from a western point of view. Why is it that so many places in the world are run in such ways that people want to leave because they sincerely believe they have better opportunities in foreign countries? Surely global migration is a huge drain on the environment and what needs to be in place to help minimise it's effects? Maybe a follow up for arrival cities would be to describe what is needed to stop people wanting to leave or even run away from places. I.e sustainable cities. What is the trick for achieving this?
on 5 November 2010
Review on Arrival City
This book is concerned with a sociological conduit, namely the arrival city that is destined to bring about a new lease of life for a large un-represented population seeking its future destiny through rural-urban migration. As the author itemises, the bare facts are that by 2050, 70% of the world's population will be urban and that only a small percentage of the population needs to work the land to feed the rest. The reduction of the world's poverty rate from 34% to 25% between 1998 and 2002 was caused purely by urbanisation: people made better livings and sent funds back to the villages. The arrival cities, which are more commonly seen as no more than shanty towns, are considered to be the waiting room of the rural-urban migrant waiting to enter the city itself.
The book is highly informative as it details examples from around the world of individuals undertaking the rural-urban migration with positive and negative results. A common negativity is the denial that the arrival cities exist and not seeing the potential of this vibrant mass ambition. As a result, many examples are given where the arrival cities have remained or remain as non-functional villages in that they are not cities and are without the community support found in rural villages. Examples are given as how such dysfunctional social communities result in aimless unemployment of the young, a drugs industry/culture, violence, and radical religious practices far in extreme of that practised in the rural environment from where the individuals stem from.
One is left with the lateral thought that maybe some of the urban terrorism experienced today stems in part from this neglected, in-limbo, denied mix of frustrated human ambition.
A major message is formulated as to the solution to help these mass forces of individuals driven to better themselves. This is given as the need to foster the creation of a middle class. Key to this is firstly to give occupiers of the arrival shanty town ownership of their modest abodes which is the first step on the ladder to upward social movement. It brings with it civil pride to the arrival city which provides for grass roots crime control and formulation of constructive cases for improved amenities. Secondly, the government or elders of the nearby city need to provide the infrastructure to give expression to this local civil pride and upward movement. Without the capacity for expression through the provision of credit, services, transport routes to the city centre and an emphasis on secondary, as opposed to post secondary education, individuals cannot rise on to or above the first steps of the ladder. It is emphasised that this is an expensive investment. As a reinforcement of the potential that exists for economic growth, the author quotes Hernando De Soto who has estimated the "total value of the real estate held but not legally owned by the poor of the third world and the former communist nations is at least US$8.3 trillion." "If this capital could be unlocked the result would be an economic equivalent to nuclear fusion, instantly freeing up a great quality of untapped capital to build a new middle class in the world's South and East."
One is also left with the feeling that the effect of an additional new uplifting force has yet to be identified which is somehow destined to fuel the transformation of the arrival town. This is the internet where IT technology, as it becomes cheaper and more accessible, will further fire up the motivation and drive for upward mobility.
If anything the presented individual cases of recent and current examples with their common messages are somewhat repetitive. Hence there would have been a case to look back in time in more detail at earlier arrival cities. While exhaustive examples are given of the recent and present day arrival city phenomena, this reader feels that a chapter of the book, or maybe a separate book, is needed to examine in some detail the arrival cities of the past. The chapter on The First Migration and How the West Arrived covering four cities; London, Paris, Toronto and Chicago covering 26 pages of a 326 page book did not do full justice to this.
Forerunners of current day arrival cities were for example those in Industrial Revolution Britain. This was driven following the rationalisation, within the Enclosures Act, of the use of agricultural land in the Agricultural Revolution and led to the coordinated working together in factories/mills, industrialisation, of the 18th and early 19th centuries. A great deal could be learnt on how these evolved to provide paradigms to support those currently being considered for help. For example the first industrial city of Manchester and the first industrial country of Wales were the recipients in the 18th and 19th centuries of mass rural-urban migrations. Wales was the only country in Europe to increase its population in the 19th century. Despite the general improvement of the lot of these migrants, e.g. having the independence and income to marry at an earlier age and birth rates soared, they brought with them major social problems of child labour, slum dwelling, disease-cholera, riots etc.
These happenings have been so well documented that the material exists to extrapolate to the today's challenges. For example Frederick Engels's The Conditions of the Working Class in England, Robert Roberts's The Classic Slum and of course Dickens's. Of note is that Engels was feeding Marx with the data which fuelled the formulation of his The Communist Manifesto and we know what that led to! Also, the role of religion, especially non-conformity, to bring about in these near lawless "frontier towns" a moral cohesion could be considered. It helped to develop an upwardly mobile work ethic and expression of civil pride which might be a useful paradigm for the future along with other cohesive integrative forces like support of local sporting teams. It is no coincidence that the majority of the successful soccer teams in Europe stem from industrial arrival cities where displaced persons used supporting of the local team as a newly found social binder.
The earlier arrival cities were also the hot bed of local and national debate on social reform which needed to recognise the presence and force of the industrial arrival cities. A narrative of the socially upward movement into the middle class is depicted in the novel by G L Banks: The Manchester Man. Perhaps Saunders can be encouraged to use his model of narrating individual life histories to illustrate experiences of the arrival cities in the 18th and 19th century. Maybe this could be the theme of his next book.
Doug Saunders's book does leave a major unanswered question. While expansive industry/trade fired up the economy of the arrival cities in the 18th and 19th century, what work will the world's 70% urbanites actually do in 2050? To this extent, a final conclusions and future perspectives chapter would have been welcome.
This is a seminal publication which provides the basic information on the scale of the sociological challenges and strategies for overcoming them as a means to accelerate the reduction of international poverty, the solution of which is urbanisation. As I write this review, a new president Dilma Rousseff has been elected in Brazil who promises to lift 20Million people in her country out of poverty. I do hope she will read Doug Saunders's book.
on 20 June 2011
Doug Saunders' descriptions of migrants who arrive, live and leave the arrival cities scattered across the Globe at the start of the 21st Century is broad and compelling. The tales of the individuals' struggles kept me reading this book from beginning to end. The Author's narrative would bring out the emotion of compassion in any readers heart. He finds ways of bringing the emotions and sufferings of those Arrival City migrants to the reader so they are touched by stories telling them of desparate struggles for survival and recognition in their new homes.
Sadly, I found Doug Saunders' analysis blind to reality. Indeed his analysis is marred by bias, partiality and failure to reflect on the otherside of the tales told by the narratives. Doug Saunders' simply omits any analysis of the migrants choice upon the host surrounding environment and host populations; depleted and fragmented.
The work fails to mention the current size of the World's population which just keeps growing. The Author's awkward comparison between the migrations to the America's of past centuries to that of the migrations to large megacities in Poor Countries and to Western Countries today appear poorly thought though.
The work also neglects to provide the otherside of the narratives in terms of the feelings and fears of the host populations - especially in the West. It seems extrodinary that the Author states, states and states again that the great facilitators of arrival are those of business opportunities, education and title to land and property. Of course if people are granted access to these resources their chances of success will improve in the long term, probably for the next generation. Sadly, Doug Saunders ignores the facts on the otherside of the debate. The facts are that there exist very few business opportunities for the young of the host populations (unemployment within many EU countries amongst the Young being 25% or a great deal more); they clutch handfuls of university degrees and diplomas only to find their paths blocked and they are being forced to live at home with their parents indefinitely - often becoming dependent on their parent's generosity to survive. Their lives have become a misery (witness the unrest amonst the young in places like France, Great Britain, Greece and Spain). They are angry because their life opportunities are being slashed and burned.
I only wish Doug Saunders had spoken to many anglo-saxons struggling to make a life in London where even for people earning over $100,000 per annum relegates them to a lifetime of long commutes of unemployment in the hinterland, against the background of colossal-sized government funding going directly to incoming migrants to assist them with housing needs. (There are reported cases of new migrants to London being housed in $15,000 per month mansions at the taxpayers expense).
Doug Saunders also makes his view of the "repugnant" rural life felt throughout the text without ever engaging into any meaningful debate as to why that might be so, if indeed it is so. He asserts that country living is bad and urban living is champion which only a person who has obviously never lived in the countryside could portray.
Is there a book out their to be written: "Arrival City Delusion"?
on 30 November 2010
Doug Saunders' analysis is outstanding. I have always enjoyed his writing in the Globe and Mail, but his book takes Saunders' reportage to a new level. This is not just an interesting take on how the world is evolving, but it is well reported, detail-oriented and a surprisingly inspiring snapshot of the world. Well done.