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“Planet of the Slums” by Mike Davis Review Essay

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Updated: Apr 30th, 2022

Mark Davis (2006) attempts to link the exponential growth of slum areas with industrialization in the Planet of the Slums. The story revolves on the statistics provided by the United Nations (UN) stating that approximately 1 billion people are entrenched in slums located in cities in the South. Davis tries to emphasize the growing gap between urbanization and economic growth. There appears to be an unstable distribution of wealth especially in these supposedly dynamic urban cities. Davis cited several cities as examples and underlined the problems these cities have been facing.

According to Davis, there are several aspects of slums that are being neglected by world leaders. For instances, issues on health, justice, and culture differences are often shelved for other priorities. Davis supported the arguments using figures coming from credible institutions. Among slums, Mexico City has the biggest in terms of population. Other cities such as Manila and Caracas are already mega slums. This observation is worsened by the manner in which governments react. Poor housing and increasing unemployment rates will further expand these slums.

Another important aspect of the book is its detailed dissection of religious and social issues in these slum areas. Some of the highlights include the Islamic uprisings in Casablanca, the Hindu fundamentalists in Bombay, the revolutionary populism in La Paz, and the street gangs in Cape Town. Aside from poverty, these events create a big hole in an already fragile community. Slums are like jungles where the mentality is survival.

Davis depicts the growth of the slums as no coincidence. It was motivated by several issues that once were completely ignored. Corrupt leadership is always viewed as the main culprit of slum revolution. Ineffective leaders mean that basic social services are not delivered and situations in these areas will indeed worsen. The book also ranted on the systems being manifested by the International Monetary fund. Its control over poor countries prevents equitable growth and development. The most evident cycle that is happening shows the transfer of wealth to the rich from the poor. Moreover, over emphasis on capitalism has further damaged the economic balance.

Towards the end of the book, Davis highlighted the value of the war on terrorism. Such event was described as the fight between imperialism against these slums areas. Davis stated that pursuing these branded terrorists will result to slums becoming battlefields. It is important to consider that most of these elements are part of the slum society. In addition, it appears that the war on terrorism has become selective. Governments are critical on some groups but relatively soft on others. Such treatment depicts the points that Davis has raised all throughout the book.

For urbanization’s sake, countries have displaced people from their natural habitat. Events such as the Olympics have pushed more people in these slum areas. Most cities hide this despair with high economic figures and some technologies. But when these cities look in a mirror, their slum areas appear to be the most compelling. The worst thing that ca happen is that these slum will eventually consume other progressive cities.


There are two sides to this book. The first side shows the reality that is seemingly ignored by most of today’s leaders. Davis was right about the growing slums in South cities. In Manila alone, the number of people classified as slum dwellers have ballooned during the past 5 years. There has been a wrong perception on people that urban areas equate to jobs. People from the provinces migrate in these areas to seek for better lives. But what is actually waiting for them is a society far worse than hunger. In this point of view, the people greatly contributed to their fate.

Davis’ use of statistics is important. Although numbers tend to lie, these figures were accessed from credible sources. These facts are relevant to support the arguments that Davis raised. The number vividly show the real situation which is far incomprehensible when delivered in words. In addition, the figures clearly define the extent of damage that slums have created. Unlike other books which based finding on accounts, Davis gave high relevance to the value of graphs and trends. Such scientific approach makes an artful masterpiece more enticing to follow.

The description of slums made by Davis is clear. This task perhaps is the hardest part in the book. There have been definitions made in the past as to what a slum is. Davis attempted to use the conventional definitional and made some major changes. It is understandable since slums are dependent on time. The change in periods can indeed affect the dynamics of these communities. Slums are ironies showing progress and stagnation.

Davis described the problems that occur in these slum areas. As expected, poverty was the main issue where the other subjects evolved. It is obvious these slum places are poor in terms of material necessities. Another important description made by Davis is that slums lack access to basic social services. The failure of the governments to provide these needs is established. In addition, there are several problems that occur within these communities. As stated previously, the rise of radicals in these slum areas worsen situation. Instead of cooperation, the government is being blocked by militants and other aggressive goods in these slum areas.

The book made mention of some basic problems linked to these events. Davis blames focus on industrialization as a major contributor. Focus on improvements has displaced people from their usual areas. The tendency is for these groups to cram in one place. Corruption is also another major issue. The inefficiency in governance prevents slum areas to access the basic services. Moreover, wealth distribution is imbalance. The rich are taking advantage of the poor and are taking their share of the world’s resources. No wonder slums are deeply etched in the arms of poverty.

There were also global issues listed in the book. The existence of IMF was supposedly a relief to all these slum areas. The financial support provided by the bank can indeed boost funds for lifting these areas from despair. Moreover, Davis pointed out the ongoing war against terrorism. At some point, there was some sense in his discussion of the issue. The major argument centers on the intentions by these struggles.

The other side of the coin details the possible flaws in the book. The title perhaps needs to be change as it appears to be stereotyping cities in the South. The title is general and there were no supporting subtitles to specify target discussions. Unless it is read, the audience will find it depressing. In addition, there are other views when it comes to slums. There are some misconceptions as to its application in the current society. Davis attempted to put color in what was normally perceived as an issue of poverty. It is necessary that other understand the exact focus of thus book.

It appears that Davis has divided the world into two realms. Davis classified the areas where rich class evolves and the places where poor people exist. In truth, however, cities provide complex structures that go beyond the realms defined by Davis. Moreover, there are signs of progress in this so called slum areas. The only problem is that the growth is overshadowed by the physical presence of these slums. Further, there are major interactions that are happening in cities including the slums. Hence the notion that slum areas are restricted from city affairs is fallible.

There seems to an animosity that Davis shows when talking about urbanism. According to Davis’ explanation, urban areas where created as soon as industrialization came to existence. But there are some valid arguments against this claim. Urban areas have evolved even before industrialization occurred. These areas need to adapt to changes or be left behind. These slum areas are not necessarily the locations that failed to change. But these areas are composed of people who are ill-equipped to make the jump.

Davis suggests urban areas that avoid globalization. This advice is far from becoming a reality. Urban areas are driven by technology and flexibility. Without such developments, then urban areas will never be classified as such. At present, promoting economic growth means focus on globalization and its agents. In addition, capitalism has to work hand in hand with government control. Urban areas are structured and necessitate the support of industrialization. One important omission that Davis made was that the book never presented actions that will balance industrialization and people welfare.

The book provided spaces to discuss the presence of corruption in these slum areas. But Davis failed to underline the fact that some of these areas have people choosing their leaders. Although corruption is never justified by wrong choice, the point is that there are more important aspects that these people need to develop. Their decision making needs to improve and so is their ability to recognize inefficiencies in the government. Corruption is indeed a problem but it is worsened by people who allow it to happen. For it to stop, these slum dwellers have to take a stand.

Finally, Davis complicated the discussion by inserting moral and religious issues in the arguments. These elements complicate points because morals tend to be subjective. Although moral issues are highlights of dysfunctional areas, these have to be discussed n a proper forum. The variation of arguments that Davis raised made a simple problem complex. Some points are more effective when discussed exclusively. The book just gathered all valid arguments and packed them as one.


Davis, M., (2006), Planet of Slum, New York: Verso.

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IvyPanda. ""Planet of the Slums" by Mike Davis Review." April 30, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/planet-of-the-slums-by-mike-davis-review/.


IvyPanda. 2022. ""Planet of the Slums" by Mike Davis Review." April 30, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/planet-of-the-slums-by-mike-davis-review/.


IvyPanda. (2022) '"Planet of the Slums" by Mike Davis Review'. 30 April.

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