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on 10 April 2012
I was looking forward to reading this exposition on the 'new military urbanism' on the recommendation of a friend, but what I found was disappointing to say the least. The first half of this book was an excruciating plough through a veritable swamp of post-post-modern verbiage, repetition, unforgivable errors and grammatical nonsense (Is proof-reading a dead art?). I would have thought, given the author's political leanings, that he would have aimed at as wide an audience as possible rather than burying any useful information under the inaccessible rubble of pointless academic theory, specious jargon and Americanisms worthy of G.W.Bush himself. For example,I have never heard the word 'carcerality' in my entire life, and frankly, I never hope to again. Apart from this pearl of gibberish, there is the question of the, seemingly unending, over-use of theoretical terms such as 'Othering', 'archipelago' and 'Bordering' (like the author was looking to score some points in the multiple use of conceptual terminology). I have rarely encountered a book so impossibly, and nigh-on impenetrably, written as this, almost as if he set out to sabotage his own work as he wrote, because his writing style seemed designed to put the reader off.

Concepts were lumped together in shopping list-type sentence structures over and over again, breaking any narrative flow that had been built up, jarring the reader with their frequency and their consequent annoyance factor. Such as-
'The second trend is the unprecedented extent to which the new military urbanism fuses and blurs civilian and military applications of the technologies for control, surveillance, communications, simulation and targeting'
'Among these threats are mobile pathogens, malign computer codes, financial crashes, 'illegal' migration, transnational terrorism, state infrastructural warfare, and the environmental extremes triggered by climate change'
'Technologies such as the internet, virtual reality, jet travel, data mining, closed-circuit TV, rocketry, remotecontrol, microwaves, radar, global positioning, networked computers, wireless communications, satellite surveillance, containerization and logistics-...'

This happens over and over and over again- straining the readers patience, not unlike certain forms of 'water-torture'...

Then there is the small matter of mentioning, or referring to, subjects of seemingly great import to the main thrust of the book, which are simply not expanded upon. They are just 'dropped in' and then simply left behind. I got the feeling the author was more interested in sounding 'clever' rather than delivering any actual, factual information to his reader. The core facts of this book, (and there are, without doubt, some incredible nuggets of information), remain buried beneath theory and cultural blather- and the reader really has to persist to dig them out- and they really should be widely known!

I almost gave up reading this weighty tome, with its miniscule typeface, but I persisted, because I wanted to know of the disgusting, sinister, anti-democratic and planet destroying future the Pentagon and the corporations are planning for us...I made it to the end, and I do not share the author's conclusions that 'faith in Obama' (lol) or the power of a handful of 'artist-activists' can avert what is plainly a nightmarish, cybernetic 'iron cage' being built for humanity. Only open revolt, and a truly 'Full Spectrum Resistance' has a chance in defeating the future hell now being designed and tested by the lunatics who have taken over the asylum...
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on 28 February 2011
Massive in scope, impossibly frightening in its implications...and yet the seeds of resistance are here as well. From Iraq to NY, Gaza to London, this book looks at how war in all of its manifestations is increasingly becoming a part of everyday life through technology, rhetoric, policing and private security, advertising and still more. It ties this to the deeply inculcated binary of 'us' vs 'them' and increasing militarization of borders not only between countries, but within them in the separation of rich and poor, white from everyone else...And there's a whole section on robots. I won't say it's fun, but it is science fiction come to life. Cities Under Siege throws a lot at you, the language is rich and complex. While there is some repetition I think, it is a book absolutely worth reading. Though if you're like me you will feel a bit paranoid after.
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on 22 March 2011
The degree to which violence not merely lurks beneath the surface of everyday life, but is an essential underpinning of it is what this book sets out to demonstrate. It shows the high degree to which state led violence (eg the police, military, secret seervice etc)is not merely peripheral to daily life, as perhaps we would like to think, but central to the way it is thought and organised. It compares and contrasts obviously violent places like Gaza and Baghdad with the less obviously violent such as London and New York, showing that the relative 'peace' of the latter is won at the expense of carnage in the former. This is a very important book written with the gusto and style of Mike Davis.
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on 14 March 2011
'Cities Under Siege' is an extremely impressive exposé of how military doctrine and vague and all-pervasive 'security' concerns are starting to dominate urban life across the world. Addressing everything from 'homeland' security to military destruction of infrastructure, militarised urban video games to SUVs, and drones and robotic weapons to right-wing diatribes against cities, the book covers an amazing amount of ground. The book is informed by the latest theoretical and academic thinking. It uses this to illuminate a myriad of examples from across the world, from London's 'ring of steel' to G20 summits, counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Israel to biofuels plantations in Indonesia . The book uses this extraordinary range to reveal many startling and poorly explored aspects of contemporary militarization. The book is a stark warning that 'security' industries are doing well out of urban paranoia, market fundamentalism and war mongering: another vision of our urbanizing world is desperately needed. 'Cities Under Siege' does a fantastic job of revealing what's at stake. It also opens up some ways forward for activism and resistance.
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on 12 February 2012
I was disappointed with this book, it had none of the ferocity and multidisciplinary approach which made Mike Davis's books on urban planning such a joy to read. Most of this book seems to be a summery of newspaper articles interspersed with trite cultural theory, with far too much emphasis upon Iraq and the occupied territories. The amount of times the author references 'the Other' or the 'political-military-cultural-securitising complex' is infuriating. The result is an over-long, myopic, unoriginal and already outdated book.

Someone like Davis have written this book in under 200 pages and discussed in far more depth the moral, economic and future courses of urban planning.

Alternatively Paul Mason's recently published 'Why it's kicking off everywhere' worth checking out as is Ivan Illich 1973 essay 'Energy and Equity'. [...]
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