- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Verso Books; First Edition edition (27 Mar. 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1844670228
- ISBN-13: 978-1844670222
- Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.3 x 21.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 140,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Planet of Slums Hardcover – 27 Mar 2006
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"Impressive - a perceptive and rigorous structural analysis." - David Montgomery, The Nation "One of the most uncompromising books about American political economy ever written - brilliant, provocative, and exhaustively researched." - Village Voice Literary Supplement "One of the most trenchant and original analyses of American politics." - Socialist Review
Prisoners of the American Dream is Mike Davis's brilliant exegesis of a persistent and major analytical problem for Marxist historians and political economists: Why has the world's most industrially advanced nation never spawned a mass party of the working class? This series of essays surveys the history of the American bourgeois democratic revolution from its Jacksonian beginnings to the rise of the New Right and the re-election of Ronal Reagan, concluding with some bracing thoughts on the prospects for progressive politics in the United States.See all Product description
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Davis' doomsaying Marxist critique of Structural Adjustment Programs, government housing reforms and micro-economic self-help is relentless, but ultimately nihilistic - nothing works, the population of an urban poor underclass is growing, and things are getting worse. There are no solutions offered in the book, not even glimpses into possibilities, small scale case studies or broad brush strokes to start a debate. It's powerful stuff, but it must be hard being Mike Davis.
It could be said that Planet of Slums is a scholarly work. It comes complete with foot notes, lots of tables and an extensive index. And one cannot complain about Davis' research it is certainly comprehensive and detailed. Perhaps therefore the book is aimed at academics, and students studying human geography. If I am right then that is a pity simply because the topic commands a broad readership and an approach that could sustain an interest by those with no specialist knowledge and specific academic purpose for reading the book. Davis' approach does not encourage and sustain a broad readership.
Davis begins his case by pointing to the large scale movement of populations from rural areas to the city thereby creating over populated cities. He appears to be concerned about the over population of cities which cannot be sustained by the level of deindustrialization. This prompts Davis to ask: "How could cities in Cote d'Ivoire, Tanzania, Congo-Kinshasa, Gabon, Angola and elsewhere - where economies were contracting by 2 to 5 percent per year - still support annual population growth of 4 to 8 percent?" There may be no clear answer but the cause of the movement lies in agricultural deregulation and the policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
It might be said by some readers that Davis presents an over pessimistic view of urbanization. He says: "Over urbanization, in other words, is driven by the reproduction of poverty, not the supply of jobs. This is one of the unexpected tracks down which a neo-liberal world order is shunting the future." I certainly would not subscribe to the over pessimistic view. It seems to me that the picture Davis presents is an accurate one.
An interesting and perhaps unexpected issue raised by Davis is how in economic down turn some people from middle class backgrounds are drawn into Slums. In raising this issue, Davis shows that the socio-politics of Slum life is not straight forward. Another example is when governments manage to move people out of Slums but some slum dwellers still prefer a life in such conditions to that of, for example, living in high rise apartments.
This book was a little too one sided in terms of its perspective. Although slum life is a very important issue worthy of exploration, Davis' relentless fact finding and presentation of those facts was off-putting. I would have preferred a book with more argument and exploration of assumptions and under pinning theory of slum life.
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