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Looking at the “Planet of Slums,” by Mike Davis

Looking at the “Planet of Slums,” by Mike Davis

We often think of migration in terms of the push and pull forces that cause people to move from one place to another, and the demographic statistics that accompany these shifts. But many people skip a whole part of the story: what is the status of this migration now? As researchers, we don’t want to

We often think of migration in terms of the push and pull forces that cause people to move from one place to another, and the demographic statistics that accompany these shifts. But many people skip a whole part of the story: what is the status of this migration now? As researchers, we don’t want to know only who is going where – we are just as concerned with why, and what the implications are for the future.

Or so Mike Davis writes in “Planet of Slums,” a detailed response to most of these questions in the developing world context. A documented postmodernist and author of “City of Quartz” (1990), his earlier work focuses on many of the societal and structural changes in Los Angeles. “Planet of Slums” shifts gears into the third-world, where “Ninety-five percent of this final buildout of humanity will occur in the urban areas of developing countries, whose populations will double to nearly 4 billion over the next generation” (Davis, 2).  This is the contemporary situation.

Dharavi Slum in Mumbai, India

Dharavi Slum, India

The work and its findings are simultaneously chilling and captivating. The work may not be news to researchers in this field, yet it provides a methodical and concise view of the slum issue. Davis takes us on an around-the-world trip, from Rio de Janiero to Nairobi, Lagos, Kolkata, and so many other places that will literally continue to grow for years to come. Chapter 4, “Illusions of Self-Help,” illustrates the inability of such institutions as the United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund to effectively address the issues of urban poverty, health, and mass urbanization in the developing world.

Overall, the purpose of the book is to show us that we are a “Planet of Slums.” It is not so much a warning as it is a statement: this is where we are, and where we will be. The statistics and figures can be slightly overwhelming at times throughout the book, although these are usually provided only to reinforce the effect. As geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, urban planners, and architects, Davis encourages us to address introspectively these real and pertinent issues.

Maxwell Vidaver Reading Planet of Slumbs

What do you think is necessary in order to prevent further slum growth, or to mitigate the slum problem?

Want a FREE copy of “Planet of Slums” by Mike Davis? The Grid is giving away four FREE copies to lucky contest winners. Follow the link to the contest for a chance to win a free copy!

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.

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Maxwell Vidaver is a graduate student in Urban Planning, Policy, and Design at Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy, and also holds a B.A. in Geography from Binghamton University, where he focused on urban economic analysis. He is originally from Ba...

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