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Urban Climacteric in Davis’ “The Planet of Slums” Essay

“The Urban Climacteric”, the first chapter of “The Planet of Slums,” explores the population explosion in urban centers as a result of the migration of the global population towards urban centers. The growth has surpassed the previous prediction by almost 300% as more cities reach the urban population of more than a million dwellers. It is predicted that if this trend continues, the cities across the globe will accommodate almost 100 percent of the global population by the year 2050.

The chapter further predicts that 95% of the population explosion in urban centers will occur in developing countries that are notorious for poor planning and resource management to sustain such growth. At present, the mega and hyper cities are taking over from the traditional urban centers that had a population of less than a million residents. To understand the impact of mega and hyper cities’ population, the UN report of the year 2000 indicated that the city of Tokyo has surpassed its growth threshold just like New York, Seoul, and Mexico. The currently overpopulated cities such as Jakarta, Shanghai, Karachi, and Dhaka among others are expected to swell further as the urban population expands exponentially (Davis 5).

The urban population explosion is explained in this chapter as influencing the development of new corridors, networks, and hierarchies in service delivery. For instance, in America, geographers have highlighted the development of a new leviathan called the Rio/Sao Paulo Extended Metropolitan Region, which stretches for more than 500 kilometers to cover a series of mid-size cities within Brazil.

The central megapolis of the leviathan is larger than the densely populated Tokyo-Yokohama transport network. Another leviathan is the giant Amoeba of Mexico City, which has completely engulfed Toluca and is likely to incorporate a significant proportion of central Mexico into one large megapolis in the next three decades. The third leviathan is the West African conurbation, which stretches across the entire Gulf of Guinea with Lagos City being its embryo. In the Asian continent, there are several large-scale post-urban cities such as the Pearl River, which encircles Guangzhou and Hong Kong cities.

The other leviathan is the Yangtze River, which captures the populous city of Shanghai delta from Tianjin to Beijing. Unlike other unplanned cities in Asia, China is at the forefront in creating super scale urban megapolises that can only be compared to New York’s Philadelphia and Tokyo’s Osaka (Davis 5). For instance, the Shanghai Economic Zone remains the largest sub-nationally planned urban entity across the globe, despite having been commissioned more than two decades ago.

Just like the Shanghai Economic Zone, the chapter notes that China is currently planning and developing other similar megapolises that might usher in an urban corridor stretching from North Korea up to West Java and beyond. Once completed, the corridor will comprise of mega and hyper cities that are predicted to constitute the demographic and physical urban revolution of the next millennium. It is predicted that the corridor will catalyze the creation of the ‘world city’ stretching from Tokyo to Shanghai, which might be similar to the London-New York urban axis.

Unfortunately, the development of these mega and hyper cities will come with the cost of increasing the current high urban inequality between cities. For instance, at present, the “Chinese experts are debating whether the ancient income-and-development chasm between city and countryside is now being replaced by an equally fundamental gap between small, particularly inland cities and giant coastal metropolises” (Davis 7). This means that if megacities will be the order of the day in the urban revolution, the chapter indicates that the burden that comes with population explosion will have to be absorbed by the second-tier cities or other smaller cosmopolitan areas. Unfortunately, unlike the megacities which are planned, the smaller cities are not well planned to accommodate the excess population that will spill over.

The interaction between the rural and urban cities will create a blurred line in defining the scope and systems that classify the boundaries of communication since the expanded corridors will simply mop out the rural population.

For instance, in Indonesia, the rural dwellings have been transitioned into urban centers called the Desakotas or city villages. The trend is similar in Latin American where polycentric urban systems are becoming the new arrangement with no clear urban or rural boundaries. For instance, in Mexico City, region-based urbanization has influenced the peri-urban expansion within the city as rural dwellings are quickly absorbed into the expanding city boundaries. At present, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between rural and urban setup in the regions surrounding Mexico City.

The ease of fusion is explained as influenced by globalization, which has “increased the movement of people, goods, services, information, news, products, and money” (David 8). Thus, the interrelation between urban and rural traits is interchangeable.

The concept of third world urbanization is highlighted in the chapter as confounding and recapitulating the pattern of the previous era, especially in North America and Western Europe. For instance, the industrial towns such as Fushan, Dongguan, and Shenzhen of China are similar to the postmodern Pittsburgs and Sheffields of Europe. Unlike China and Western Europe, the emerging city growth in developing countries does not have stable industrial export capabilities. In these cities, there is no consistent inflow of capital from foreign regions, thus, limiting the investment of local capital, which may not be efficient to spur exponential growth in urban infrastructure.

Cities, which depended on local capital for investment, have faced serious economic hurdles (Davis 7). For instance, cities such as Johannesburg, Bombay, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires have had to endure the closure of many important manufacturing plants and eventual deindustrialization due to their inability to sustain production and profitability. To reverse the trend, many urban centers in developing countries have resorted to agricultural productivity to support urban growth.

Despite these challenges, the highest urban growth, in terms of the population, has been recorded in the third world countries as more people move to urban centers in search of the elusive opportunities. The urban boom in third world cities has surprised many people since it contradicts the natural expectation. For instance, in Africa, it is surprising that the city of Lagos has grown twice as the population of Nigeria, despite a contracting economy and stagnant employment rate in the urban center. The possible explanation highlighted in the chapter is the “exodus of surplus rural labor to urban slums even as cities ceased to be job machines” (Davis 7).

It is believed that the great cities of the future will follow similar trends of the current megacities as proposed by Karl Marx and Max Weber. However, the slum growth is threatening the planning and exponential growth strategies of the urban cities in the developing countries. This means that the cities of the future, especially in Africa and Asia will be surrounded by decay and pollution as population pressure surpasses the available resources to sustain them (Davis 9).


The big push in the Chinese Mega Processing Zone was influenced by the need to address unemployment and complement the external economy. Besides, China needed to coordinate capital utilization through the creation of a centralized industrial zone to ensure that the megacity created could be sustainable. This concept can be related to the theory of balanced growth discussed in the class. The level of urban development in different regions can be related to Rostow’s stages of growth theory. For instance, China, Japan, the US, and the better part of Western Europe are the fourth and fifth stages characterized by maturity and mass consumption.

On the other hand, Asia and Africa’s cities are in the third stage characterized by the struggle to balance the factors of production and guarantee sustainable growth. The concept of the continued growth of urban cities in Africa against the backdrop of failed economic systems and unemployment can be related to the economic dependency discussed in the class. In African cities, economic growth is facilitated by local capital that is not efficient to attract any substantial FDIs to spur the industrial revolution. For instance, Paul Baran’s monopoly capitalism concept discussed in class can be related to the current dilemma facing the Indian cities as they cannot regenerate a role in production to sustain the exponential development of the urban centers.

Works Cited

Davis, Mike. The Planet of Slums, London: Verson, 2006. Print.

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"Urban Climacteric in Davis' "The Planet of Slums"." IvyPanda, 2 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/urban-climacteric-in-davis-the-planet-of-slums/.

1. IvyPanda. "Urban Climacteric in Davis' "The Planet of Slums"." September 2, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/urban-climacteric-in-davis-the-planet-of-slums/.


IvyPanda. "Urban Climacteric in Davis' "The Planet of Slums"." September 2, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/urban-climacteric-in-davis-the-planet-of-slums/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Urban Climacteric in Davis' "The Planet of Slums"." September 2, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/urban-climacteric-in-davis-the-planet-of-slums/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Urban Climacteric in Davis' "The Planet of Slums"'. 2 September.

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