Friday, December 15, 2006

Mike Davis' Planet of Slums

Of all the many, many devastating statistics and descriptions in Mike Davis' "Planet of Slums" (the article from New Left Review, available here, not the book of the same name)--for instance, that "[t]he labour-power of a billion people has been expelled from the world system [into the informal economy]" or that [the Gini coefficient of .067] was mathematically equivalent to a situation where the poorest two-thirds of the world receive zero income; and the top third everything"--it's this one (which conveys, somehow, both the real desperation of urban poverty in Africa and the limits of empirical knowledge) that I couldn't stop thinking about today:

With even formal-sector urban wages in Africa so low that economists can't figure out how workers survive (the so-called 'wage puzzle'), the informal tertiary sector has become an arena of extreme Darwinian competition amongst the poor.

Obviously, he's excellent at showing how all of this is the result of IMF and World Bank policies in the 80s and 90s. But there's also an excellent comparison of the situation in Asia, Africa and Latin America now with urban poverty in the late 19th century, as well as a provocative account of Pentecostalism (which started in Los Angeles)in Latin America. Now I look forward to reading the book, which should be out in paperback soon, if it isn't already.

1 comment:

Reginald Shepherd said...

Hey Jasper,

I hope that you're doing well. Do you have an e-copy of that Mike Davis article? The New Left Review site will only let one read it if one buys it or subscribes (32 pounds), and there's a problem with the library server at the school where Robert teaches (I use his password) and it can't access New Left Review, though it's on the list of available e-journals.

Thanks a lot and take care.

peace and poetry,