Planet of Slums

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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 ...

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jimmybackwards

Apr 13, 2007

human misery on a global scale

Davis gives us here a global catalogue of contemporary urban poverty as it affects upwards of 3 billion of the world's peoples. In an increasingly urbanising world, the mass migrations to the megacities of Africa, Asia and Latin America have overwhelmed the abilities of their nations' to provide either sufficient formal employment or necessary infrastructures of housing, public health (sanitation, clean water) and environmentally secure residential areas.
Such a decoupling of urbanisation from its traditional base of industrialisation is producing a world surplus population 'warehoused' in slum areas of the cities of the South. Here they face immense problems in their struggles for daily survival.
Economic activity increasingly takes the form of an improvisation, outside the formal sector to secure a subsistence niche. Housing is precariously achieved in unsafe locations - from swamplands to rubbish dumps - where fire, toxic waste and landslides are ever present threats. Tenure here is equally uncertain, slum dwellers having to settle for illegal subdivisions of existing titled lands or 'infill' developments in already cramped spaces. Public health cedes to overcrowding, polluted water, and few sanitation measures.
The picture is undoubtedly bleak - and Davis leaves us in no doubt that the post-colonial state can not provide any significant solution to the range of problems facing the modern slum dweller. As for other political solutions, he is deferring any discussion of the political potential of the slum millions to a subsequent investigation.

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