Quotes from Planet of Slums, by Mike Davis

- ‘The world’s urban labor force has more than doubled since 1980, and the present urban population – 3.2 billion – is larger than the total population of the world when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated.’ (2)
- ‘As anthropologist Gregory Guldin has emphasized, urbanization must be conceptualized as structural transformation along, and intensified interaction between, every point of an urban-rural continuum. In Guldin’s case study of southern China, he found that the countryside is urbanizing in situ as well as generating epocal migrations; ‘Villages become more like market and xiangtowns, and county towns and small cities become more like large cities.’ Indeed, in many cases, rural people no longer have to migrate to the city: it migrates to them.’ (8-9)
- ‘Globalization has increased the movement of people, goods, services, information, news, products, and money, and thereby the presence of urban characteristics in rural areas and of rural traits in urban centers.’ Magdalena Nock (11)
- ‘In China the greatest industrial revolution in history is the Archimedean lever shifting a population the size of Europe’s from rural villages to smog-choked, sky-climbing cities: since the market reforms of the late 1970s it is estimated that more than 200 million Chinese have moved from rural areas to cities. Another 250 of 300 million people – the next ‘peasant flood’ – are expected to follow in coming decades. As a result of this staggering influx, 166 Chinese cities in 2005 (as compared to only 9 US cities) had populations of more than 1 million.’ (11-12)
- ‘As the Financial Times recently pointed out, within a decade ‘China [will] cease to be the predominantly rural country it has been for millennia.’ ’ (12)
- ‘Eighty percent of Marx’s industrial proletariat now lives in China or somewhere outside of Western Europe and the United States.’ (13)
- ‘Third World urbanization, moreover, continued its breakneck pace (3.8 percent per annum from 1960 to 1993) throughout the locust years of the 1980s and early 1990s, in spite of falling real wages, soaring prices, and skyrocketing urban employment. This perverse urban boom surprised most experts and contradicted orthodox economic models that predicted that the negative feedback of urban recession would slow or even reverse migration from the countryside. ‘It appears,’ marveled developmental economist Nigel Harris in 1990, ‘that for low-income countries, a significant fall in urban incomes may not necessarily produce in the short term a decline in rural-urban migration.’ ’ (14)
- ‘As local safety nets disappeared, poor farmers became increasingly vulnerable to any exogenous shock: drought, inflation, rising interest rates, or falling commodity prices. (Or illness: an estimated 60 percent of Cambodian small peasants who sell their land and move to the city are forced to do so by medical debts.) At the same time, rapacious warlords and chronic civil wars, often spurred by the economic dislocations of debt-imposed structural adjustment or foreign economic predators (as in the Congo and Angola), were uprooting whole countrysides.’ (15-16)
- ‘Rapid urban growth in the context of structural adjustment, currency devaluation, and state retrenchment has been an inevitable recipe for the mass production of slums.’ (17)
- ‘Of the 500,000 people who migrate to Delhi each year, it is estimated that fully 400,000 end up in slums; by 2015 India’s capital will have a slum population of more than 10 million.’ (18)
- ‘The one billion city-dwellers who inhabit postmodern slums might well look back with envy at the ruins of the sturdy mud homes of Catal Huyuk in Anatolia, erected at the very dawn of city life nine thousand years ago.’ (19)
- ‘Even using this restrictive definition, the UN researchers estimate that there were at least 921 million slum-dwellers in 2001 and more than one billion in 2005.’ (23)
- ‘Residents of slums, while only 6 percent of the city population of the developed countries, constitute a staggering 78.2 percent of urbanites in the least-developed countries; this equals fully a third of the global population.’ (23)
- ‘According to UN-HABITAT, the world’s highest percentages of slum-dwellers are in Ethiopia (an astonishing 99.4 percent of the urban population), Chad (also 99.4 percent), Afghanistan(98.5 percent), and Nepal (92 percent). Bombay, with 10 to 12 million squatters and tenement-dwellers, is the global capital of slum-dwelling, followed by Mexico City and Dhaka (9 to 10 million each), and then Lagos, Cairo, Karachi, Kinshasa-Brazzavulle, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Delhi ((6 to 8 million each).’ (23)
- ‘There are probably more than 200,000 slums on earth, ranging in population from a few hundred to more than a million people. The five great metropolises of South Asia (Karachi, Mumbai,Delhi, Kolkata, and Dhaka) alone contain about 15,000 distinct slum communities whose total population exceeds 20 million. ‘Megaslums’ arise when shanty-towns and squatter communities merge in continuous belts of informal housing and poverty, usually on the urban periphery.’ (26)
- ‘In Mumbai the typical chawl (75 percent of the city’s formal housing stock) is a dilapidated, one-room rental dwelling that crams a household of six people into 15 square meters; the latrine is usually shared with six other families.’ (34)
- ‘Finally, there is the street itself. Los Angeles is the First World capital of homelessness, with an estimated 100,000 homeless people, including an increasing number of families, camped on downtown streets or living furtively in parks and amongst freeway landscaping. The biggest population of pavement-dwellers in the Third World is probably in Mumbai, where 1995 research estimated one million living on the sidewalks. The traditional stereotype of the Indian pavement-dweller is a destitute peasant, newly arrived from the countryside, who survives by parasitic begging, but as research in Mumbai has revealed, almost all (97 percent) have at least one breadwinner, 70 percent have been in the city at least six years, and one third have been evicted from a slum or a chawl. Indeed, many pavement-dwellers are simply workers – rickshaw men, construction laborers, and market porters – who are compelled by their jobs to live in the otherwise unaffordable heart of the metropolis.’ (36)
- ‘Squatting is seldom without up-front costs, however. Squatters very often are coerced to pay considerable bribes to politicians, gangsters, or police to gain access to sites, and they may continue to pay such informal ‘rents’ in money and/or votes for years.’ (38)
- ‘Essentially, squatters occupy no-rent land, land that has so little worth that no one bothers to have or enforce property right to it.’ Eileen Stillwaggon (39)
- ‘Gaza – considered by some to be the world’s largest slum – is essentinally an unrbanized agglomeration of refugee camps (750,000 refugees) with two thirds of the population subsisting on less than $2 per day.’ (48)
- ‘Although there are some exceptions, most of today’s megacities of the South share a common trajectory: a regime of relatively slow, even retarded growth, then abrupt acceleration to fast growth in the 1950s and 1960s, with rural in-migrants increasingly sheltered in peripheral slums.’ (50-51)
- ‘In Beijing, where highrise construction has led to real quantitative improvements in residential space, tower-dwellers nonetheless bemoan the loss of community. In surveys residents report dramatic declines in social visits, intercourse with neighbors, and frequency of children’s play, as well as the increased isolation and loneliness of old people.’ (64)
- ‘Urban elites and the middle classes in the Third World have also been extraordinarily successful in evading municipal taxation. ‘In most developing countries,’ the International Labor Organization’s A. Oberai writes, ‘the revenue potential of real-estate taxation is not fully utilized. The existing systems tend to suffer from poor assessment administration, substantial erosion of the tax base due to exemptions, and poor performance in terms of tax collection. Oberai is too polite: the urban rich in Africa, south Asia, and much of Latin America are rampantly, even criminally undertaxed by local governments.’ (67-68)
- ‘Part of the blame must be assigned to the IMF which, in its role as the Third World’s financial watchdog, everywhere advocates regressive user fees and charges for public services but never proposes counterpart efforts to tax wealth, conspicuous consumption, or real estate.’ (68)
- ‘A consensus of urban scholars agrees that public- and state-assisted housing in the Third World has primarily benefited the urban middle classes and elites, who expect to pay low taxes while receiving high levels of municipal services.’ (69)
- ‘As Third World governments abdicated the battle against the slum in the 1970s, the Bretton Woods institutions – with the IMF as ‘bad cop’ and the World Bank as ‘good cop’ – assumed increasingly commanding roles in setting the parameters of urban housing policy. Lending for urban development by the World Bank increased from a mere 10 million dollars in 1972 to more than 2 billion dollars in 1988. And between 1972 and 1990 the Bank helped finance a total of 116 sites-and-services and/or slum-upgrading schemes in 55 nations. In terms of need, of course, this was a mere drop in the bucket, but it gave the Bank tremendous leverage over national urban policies, as well as direct patronage relationships to local slum communities and NGOs; it also allowed the Bank to impose its own theories as worldwide urban policy orthodoxy.’ (70)
- ‘The NGO revolution – there are now tens of thousands in Third World cities – has reshaped the landscape or urban development aid in much the same way that the War on Poverty in the 1960s transformed relations between Washington, big city political machines, and insurgent inner-city constituencies. As the intermediary role of the state has declined, the big international institutions have acquired their own grassroots presence through dependent NGOs in thousands of slums and poor urban communities.’ (75)
- ‘What Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz in his brief tenure as chief economist for the Bank described as an emerging ‘post-Washington Consensus’ might be better characterized as ‘soft imperialism,’ with the major NGOs captive to the agenda of the international donors, and grassroots groups similarly dependent upon the international NGOs.’ (76)
- ‘For all the glowing rhetoric about democratization, self-help, social capital, and the strengthening of civil society, the actual power relations in this new NGO universe resemble nothing so much as traditional clientelism.’ (76)
- ‘The broad impact of the NGO/‘civil society revolution,’ as even some World Bank researchers acknowledge, has been to bureaucratize and deradicalize urban social movements.’ (76)
- ‘NGOs, moreover, are inherently conservative. They are staffed by retired civil servants and businessmen at the top and, lower down, by social workers, from among the educated unemployed and by housewives and others without roots in the slums.’ Frederic Thomas (77)
- ‘Syrupy official assurances about ‘enablement’ and ‘good governance’ sidewtep core issues of global inequality and debt, and ultimately they are just language games that cloak the absence of any macro-strategy for alleviating urban poverty.’ (79)
- ‘Despite the enduring mythology of heroic squatters and free land, the urban poor are increasingly the vassals of landlords and developers.’ (82)
- ‘ ‘Fifty-seven percent of the dwellings in one Nairobi slum,’ write UN researchers in another study, ‘are owned by politicians and civil servants, and the shacks are the most profitable housing in the city. A slumlord who pays $160 for a 100-square-foot shack can recoup the entire investment in months.’ ’ (87)
- ‘Erhard Berner observed the same process of ‘tolerated invasions’ in Manila, where squatters ‘convert barren hillsides, marginal fields, or swampy marshes into housing land,’ thus leveraging land values for owners who can either evict residents or jack up their rents.’ (89)
- ‘In China the urban edge – as noted earlier – has become the arena of a vast, one-sided social struggle between city governments and poor farmers. In the face of development authorities’ inexhaustible appetite for new land for economic zones and suburbs, peasants are pushed aside with minimal consideration or compensation; likewise, traditional working-class neighborhoods and villages are routinely razed for more upscale developments, often to the advantage of corrupt officials and party leaders. When locals protest, they end up being confronted by paramilitary police and often face prison terms.’ (91)
- ‘Modern mega-slums like Kibera (Nairobi) and Cite-Soleil (Port-au-Prince) have achieved densities comparable to cattle feedlots.’ (92)
- ‘This urban population implosion via relentless infill and overcrowding almost defines credulity. In Kolkata’s bustees, for example, an average of 13.4 people are somehow shoehorned into each occupied room.’ (93)
- ‘Lagos’s greatest slum, Ajegunle, exemplifies the worst of worlds: overcrowding coupled with extreme peripherality. In 1972, Ajegunle contained 90,000 people on 8 square kilometers of swampy land; today 1.5 million people reside on an only slightly larger surface area, and they spend a hellish average of three house each day commuting to their workplaces.’ (93-94)
- ‘ ‘To date,’ Erhard Berner sourly but accurately observes, ‘states have been far more effective in the destruction of mass housing than in its construction.’ ’ (94)
- ‘These polarized patterns of land use and population density recapitulate older logics of imperial control and racial dominance. Throughout the Third World, postcolonial elites have inherited and greedily reproduced the physical footprints of segregated colonial cities. Despite rhetorics of national liberation and social justice, they have aggressively adapted the racial zoning of the colonial period to defend their own class privileges and spatial exclusivity.’ (96)
- ‘For urban India as a whole, Nandini Gooptu has shown how the ‘socialist’ Congress Party middle classes – who during the 1930s and 1940s extolled the garib janata (the poor common people) in the abstract – ended up after independence as enthusiastic custodians of the colonial design of urban exclusion and social separation. Gooptu writes: ‘Implicitly or explicitly, the poor were denied a place in civil life and urban culture, and were seen as an impediment to progress and betterment of society.’ ’ (97-98)
- ‘Urban segregation is not a frozen status quo, but rather a ceaseless social war in which the state intervenes regularly in the name of ‘progress,’ ‘beautification,’ and even ‘social justice for the poor’ to redraw spatial boundaries to the advantage of landowners, foreign investors, elite homeowners, and middle-class commuters.’ (98)
- ‘Some Famous Slum Evictions
Number Evicted
Hong Kong
Rio de Janiero
Santo Domingo

- ‘In the urban Third World, poor people dread high-profile international events – conferences, dignitary visits, sporting events, beauty contests, and international festivals – that prompt authorities to launch crusades to clean up the city: slum-dwellers know that they are the ‘dirt’ or ‘blight’ that their governments prefer the world not to see.’ (104)
- ‘The urban cleansing strategy of the Burmese generals, or course, has sinister precedents in the Western hemisphere. In the 1960s and 1970s, for example, the Southern Cone military dictatorships declared war on favelas and campamientos which they perceived to be potential centers of resistance, or simply obstacles to urban bourgeoisification.’ (108)
- ‘Large-scale slum clearance – as exemplified by the destruction of Zhejiang Village – is frequently coordinated with the repression of street vendors and informal workers.’ (112)
- ‘Certainly the old gold coasts remain – like Zamalek in Cairo, Riviera in Abidjan, Victoria Island in Lagos, and so on – but the novel global trend since the early 1990s has been the explosive growth of exclusive, closed suburbs on the peripheries of Third World cities. Even (or especially) in China, the gated community has been called the ‘most significant development in recent urban planning and design.’ ’ (115)
- ‘It is important to grasp that we are dealing here with a fundamental reorganization of metropolitan space, involving a drastic diminution of the intersections between the lives of the rich and the poor, which transcends traditional social segregation and urban fragmentation.’ (119)
- ‘Squatters trade physical safety and public health for a few square meters of land and some security against eviction. They are the pioneer settlers of swamps, floodplains, volcano slopes, unstable hillsides, rubbish mountains, chemical dumps, railroad sidings, and desert fringes.’ (121)
- ‘Earthquakes, hazard geographer Kenneth Hewitt claims, destroyed more than 100 million homes during the twentieth century, mostly in slums, tenement districts, or poor rural villages. Seismic risk is so unevenly distributed in most cities, Hewett explains, that the term ‘classquake’ was coined to characterize the biased pattern of destruction.’ (126)
- ‘Slums, not Mediterranean brush or Australian ecology. Their mixture of inflammable dwellings, extraordinary density, and dependence upon open fires for heat and cooking is a superlative recipe for spontaneous combustion.’ (127)
- ‘Slum fires, however, are often anything but accidents: rather than bear the expense of court procedures or endure the wait for an official demolition order, landlords and developers frequently prefer the simplicity of arson.’ (127)
- ‘Erhard Berner adds that a favorite method for what Filipino landlords prefer to call ‘hot demolition’ is to chase a kerosene-drenched burning live rat or cat – dogs die too fast – into an annoying settlement…a fire started this way is hard to fight as the unlucky animal can set plenty of shanties aflame before it dies.’ ’ (127)
- ‘All the classical principles of urban planning, including the preservation of open space and the separation of noxious land uses from residences, are stood on their heads in poor cities. A kind of infernal zoning ordinance seems to surround dangerous industrial activities and transport infrastructures with dense thickets of shanty housing. Almost every large Third World city (or at least those with some industrial base) has a Dantesque district of slums shrouded in pollution and located next to pipelines, chemical plants, and refineries.’ (129)
- ‘They suffer from what Gita Verma calls the ‘garbage dump syndrome’: a concentration of toxic industrial activities such as metal plating, dyeing, rendering, tanning, battery recycling, casting, vehicle repair, chemical manufacture, and so on, which middle classes would never tolerate in their own districts. Very little research has been conducted on environmental health in such settings, especially the risks that arise from synergies of multiple toxins and pollutants in the same location.’ (129)
- ‘The results of this collision between urban poverty and traffic congestion is sheer carnage. More than one million people – two thirds of them pedestrians, cyclists, and passengers – are killed in road accidents in the Third World each year. ‘People who will never own a car in their life,’ reports a World Health Organization researcher, ‘are at the greatest risk.’ ’ (132)
- ‘In Delhi, meanwhile, the Hindustan Times recently complained that middle-class commuters seldom bother to stop after running over homeless ragpickers or poor children.’ (133)
- ‘The WHO, indeed, considers traffic to be one of the worst health hazards facing the urban poor, and predicts that road accidents by 2020 will be the third leading cause of death. China, where cars are wresting control of urban streets from bicycles and pedestrians, will unfortunately lead the way: almost one-quarter-million Chinese were killed or seriously injured in traffic accidents in the first five months of 2003 alone.’ (133)
- ‘From a sanitary viewpoint, poor cities on every continent are little more than clogged, overflowing sewers.’ (137)
- ‘Being forced to exercise body functions in public is certainly a humiliation for anyone, but, above all, it is a feminist issue.’ (140)
- ‘The filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar, the auteur of the toilet documentary Bumbay, told a startled interviewer that in Bombay ‘half the population doesn’t have a toilet to shit in, so they shit outside. That’s five million people. If they shit half a kilo each, that’s two and a half million kilos of shit each morning.’ ’ (140)
- ‘ ‘The absence of toilets,’ writes journalist Asha Krishnakumar, ‘is devastating for women. It severely affects their dignity, health, safety and sense of privacy, and indirectly their literacy and productivity. To defecate, women and girls have to wait until dark, which exposes them to harassment and even sexual assault.’ (140-141)
- ‘The solution to the sanitarian crisis – at least as conceived by certain economics professors sitting in comfortable armchairs in Chicago and Boston – has been to make urban defecation a global business. Indeed, one of the great achievements of Washington-sponsored neoliberalism has been to turn public toilets into cash points for paying off foreign debts – pay toilets are a growth industry throughout Third World slums. In Ghana a user fee for public toilets was introduced by the military government in 1981; in the late 1990s toilets were privatized and are now described as a ‘gold mine’ or profitability.’ (141) - ‘In Baghdad’s giant slum of Sadr City, heptatitis and typhoid epidemics rage out of control. American bombing wrecked already overloaded water and sewerage infrastructures, and as a result raw sewage seeps into the household water supply. Two years after the US invasion, the system remains broken, and the naked eye can discern filaments of human excrement in the tap water. In the 115-degree heat of summer there is no other available water supply that poor people can afford.’ (144)
- ‘Although clean water is the cheapest and single most important medicine in the world, public provision of water, like free toilets, often competes with powerful private interests.’ (144)
- ‘Water from vendor versus piped water (price mark-up in percentage)
Pnom Penh

- ‘In Dhaka and Chittagong, according to medical statisticians, ‘around one-third of the people in slum communities are thought to be ill at any given time’ – the equivalent of a pandemic in any other urban context.’ (147)
- ‘Over 36 million people in the world today are HIV/AIDS infected. Of these, some 95 percent live in the global south. In particular, sub-Saharan Africa is home to over 25 million people suffered from HIV and AIDS….Each day in Africa more than 5000 people die from AIDS. Experts estimated that the world community needs to invest US $7-10 billion every year to fight HIV/AIDS, as well as other diseases like tuberculosis and malaria. In the face of this humanitarian crisis, however, African countries continue annually to pay $13.5  billion in debt service payments to creditor countries and institutions, an amount far in excess of the United Nations’ proposed global HIV/AIDS trust fund.’ Fantu Cheru (149)
- ‘Debt – as William Tabb reminds us in his recent history of global economic governance – has been the forcing-house of an epochal transfer of power from Third World nations to the Bretton Woods institutions controlled by the United Nations and other core capitalist countries. According to Tabb, the Bank’s professional staff are the postmodern equivalent of a colonial civil service.’ (153-154)
- ‘Urban Africa and Latin America were the hardest hit by the artificial depression engineered by the IMF and the White House – indeed, in many countries the economic impact of SAPs during the 1980s, in tandem with protracted drought, rising oil prices, soaring interest rates, and falling commodity prices, was more severe and long-lasting than the Great Depression.’ (155)
- ‘The IMF and World Bank, as we have seen, promoted regressive taxation through public-service user fees for the poor, but made no counterpart effort to reduce military expenditure or to tax the incomes or real estate of the rich.’ (155)
- ‘Everywhere in the Third World, the economic shocks of the 1980s forced individuals to regroup around the pooled resources of households and, especially, the survival skills and desperate ingenuity of women.’ (158)
 - ‘As geographer Sylvia Chant emphasizes, poor urban women under SAPs had to work harder both inside and outside the home to compensate for cuts in social service expenditures and male incomes; simultaneously new or increased user fees further limited their access to education and healthcare. Somehow they were expected to cope. Indeed, some researchers argue that SAPs cynically exploit the belief that women’s labor-power is almost infinitely elastic in the face of household survival needs. This is the guilty secret variable in most neoclassical equations of economic adjustment: poor women and their children are expected to lift the weight of Third World debt upon their shoulders. Thus, in China and the industrializing cities of Southeast Asia, millions of young women indentured themselves to assembly lines and factory squalor. ‘Women,’ according to recent research, ‘make up 90 percent of the 27 or so million workers in Free Trade Zones.’ ’ (158)
- ‘Deindustrialization and the decimation of male formal-sector jobs, often followed by male emigration, compelled women to improvise new livelihoods as piece-workers, liquor sellers, street vendors, lottery ticket seller, hairdressers, sewing operators, cleaners, washers, ragpickers, nannies, and prostitutes.’ (159)
- ‘As in Africa and Asia, many Latin American urban families also ‘adjusted to adjustment’ by sending dependent members back to the countryside, where subsistence was cheaper. ‘In Costa Rica,’ writes Cedric Pugh, ‘men and women split their households, with women and children often being constrained to migrate to poorer regions where housing outlays could be economized. Sometimes this added to separation and divorce with long-term consequences for living standards and the demand for housing among split households.’ (160)
- ‘The slums of Africa, Latin American [sic], and South Asia did not go gently into the IMF’s good night – instead they exploded. In their pathbreaking study of grassroots resistance to structural adjustment, John Walton and David Seddon catalogued 146 ‘IMF riots’ in 39 debtor countries from 1976 to 1992.’ (161)
- ‘In Caracas in February 1989 a hugely unpopular IMF-dictated increase in fuel prices and transit fares sparked a riot by angry bus riders and radical university students, and police batons quickly turned the confrontation into a semi-insurrection. During the week-long Caracazo, tens of thousands of poor people came down from their hillside barrios to loot shopping centers, burn luxury cars, and build barricades.’ (162)
- ‘In Mexico the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty increased from 16 percent in 1992 to 38 percent in 1999, despite the much-hyped ‘success stories’ of the bordermaquiladoras and NAFTA.’ (164-165)
- ‘Global inequality, as measured by World Bank economists across the entire world population, reached an incredible GINI coefficient of 0.67 by the end of the century – this is mathematically equivalent to a situation where the poorest two-thirds of the world receive zero income, and the top third receives everything.’ (165)
- ‘The biggest event of the 1990s, however, was the conversion of much of the former ‘Second World’ – European and Asian state socialism – into a new Third World. In the early 1990s those considered to be living in extreme poverty in the former ‘transitional countries,’ as the UN calls them, rocketed from 14 million to 168 million: an almost instantaneous mass pauperization without precedent in history.’ (166)
- ‘Between 1996 and 2001 the number of state-owned industrial companies was reduced by 40 percent and a staggering 36 million workers were made redundant. Officially there was little rise in unemployment, but this was statistical sleight of hand, because laid-off state workers were put into a special ‘off post’ category that didn’t count them as jobless since they still received some social security benefits through their work unit. In reality, urban unemployment is estimated to be between 8 percent and 13 percent. An unusually high percentage of redundant workers are women because, according to journalist Pamela Yatsko, the bureau chief for the Far Eastern Economic Review, ‘the government estimated that laid-off women would be less of a security threat than jobless men.’ ’ (169)
- ‘India gained 56 million more paupers in the course of the ‘boom.’ Indeed, as Jeremy Seabrook underlines, the early 1990s may have been ‘the worst time for the poor since Independence,’ as deregulated food grain prices soared 58 percent between 1991 and 1994.’ (171)
- ‘A leading Western economic consultant was forced to concede that ‘Bangalore’s high tech [boom] is a drop in the bucket in a sea of poverty.’ ’ (173)
- ‘At the end of the nineteenth century, the forcible incorporation into the world market of the great subsistence peasantries of Asia and Africa entailed the famine deaths of millions and the uprooting of tens of millions more from traditional tenures. The end result (in Latin America as well) was rural ‘semi-proletarianization’, the creation of a huge global class of immiserated semi-peasants and farm laborers lacking existential security of subsistence.’ (175)
- ‘In most sub-Saharan cities, formal job creation has virtually ceased to exist.’ (177)
- ‘Neoliberal populists have failed to heed anthropologist William House’s 1978 warning in his case studies of Nairobi slums about the need to distinguish micro-accumulation from sub-subsistence: ‘The simple dichotomy of the urban economy in less developed countries into formal sector can be further categorized into at least two subsectors: an intermediate sector, which appears as a reservoir of dynamic entrepreneurs, and the community of the poor, which contains a large body of residual and under-employed labor.’ (180)
- ‘Informality ensures extreme abuse of women and children. Again, it is Breman, in his magisterial study of the working poor in India, who drags the skeleton out of the closet: ‘Out of public view, it is usually the weakest and smallest shoulders that have to bear the heaviest burdens of informalization. The image of shared poverty does not do justice to the inequality with which this form of existence, too, is permeated within the sphere of the household.’ (181)
- ‘Those engaged in informal-sector competition under conditions of infinite labor supply usually stop short of a total war of all against all; conflict, instead is usually transmuted into ethnoreligious or racial violence.’ (185)
- ‘Worldwide, however, the largest sector of urban child labor is unquestionably domestic service. A very large segment of the urban middle class in the Third World directly exploits poor children and teenagers. For example, ‘a survey of middle-income households in Colombo showed that one in three had a child under 14 years of age as a domestic worker’ – the same percentage as Jakarta.’ (188)
- ‘The rickshaw has always been a notorious emblem of the degradation of labor in Asia. Invented in Japan in the 1860s, it allowed ‘human animals’ to replace mule carts and horse-drawn carriages as the chief means of transportation in the great cities of East and south Asia.’ (188)
- ‘The 200,000 rickshawallahs – the unsung Lance Armstrongs of the Third World – earn about a dollar per day for pedaling an average of 60 kilometers in Dhaka’s nightmarish traffic and pollution.’ (189)
- ‘The most ghoulish part of the informal economy, even more than child prostitution, is the surging world demand for human organs, a market created in the 1980s by breakthroughs in kidney transplant surgery…a majority of the donors were women, including ‘many deserted women…forced to sell their kidneys to raise money to support themselves and their children.’ ’ (190)
- ‘Of the world’s megacities, only Dhaka is as poor, and Kinshasa surpasses all in its desperate reliance upon informal survival strategies.’ (191)
- ‘What does it mean to be a city of an estimated 6 million inhabitants in which there is hardly any car traffic or public transportation for the simple reason that, at frequent intervals, there is not a drop of fuel available for weeks or even months?’ Filip De Boeck (191-192)
- ‘The Kinois negotiate their city of ruins with an irresponsible sense of humor, but even flak-jacketed irony yields before the grimness of the social terrain: average income has fallen to under $100 per year; two-thirds of the population is malnourished; the middle class is extinct; and one in five adults is HIV-positive.’ (192)
- ‘According to De Boeck, ‘The withdrawal in November 1993 of the IMF and the World Bank from the country attested to the fact that Congo was no longer participating in the world economy.’ With the national economy in ruins and the Congo’s wealth locked in Swiss bank vaults, Mobutu was finally overthrown in 1997; ‘liberation,’ however, only led to foreign interventions and an endless civil war that the USAID estimated had taken more than 3 million lives (mostly from starvation and disease) by 2004. The rapine by marauding armies in the easternCongo – resembling scenes from Europe’s Thirty Years War – propelled new waves of refugees into overcrowded Kinshasa slums.’ (194)
- ‘Literal, perverse belief in Harry Potter had gripped Kinshasa, leading to the mass-hysterical denunciation of thousands of child ‘witches’ and their expulsion to the streets, even their murder. The children, some barely more than infants, have been accused of every misdeed and are even believed, in the Ndjili slum at least, to fly about at night in swarms on broomsticks.’ (196)
- ‘There is no official scenario for the reincorporation of this vast mass of surplus labor into the mainstream of the world economy.’ (199)
- ‘With a literal ‘great wall’ of high-tech border enforcement blocking large-scale migration to the rich countries, only the slum remains as a fully franchised solution to the problem of warehousing this century’s surplus humanity. Slum populations, according to UN-HABITAT, are currently growing by a staggering 25 million per year.’ (200-201)
- ‘If there is no monolithic subject or unilateral trend in the global slum, there are nonetheless myriad acts of resistance. Indeed, the future of human solidarity depends upon the militant refusal of the new urban poor to accept their terminal marginality within global capitalism.’ (202)
- ‘The categorical criminalization of the urban poor is a self-fulfilling prophecy, guaranteed to shape a future of endless war in the streets.’ (202)
- ‘As the Third World middle classes increasingly bunker themselves in their suburban themeparks and electrified ‘security villages,’ they lose moral and cultural insight into the urban badlands they have left behind.’ (202)
- ‘The unemployed teenage fighters of the ‘Mahdi Army’ in Baghdad’s Sadr City – one of the world’s largest slums – taunt American occupiers with the promise that their main boulevard is ‘Vietnam Street.’ But the war planners don’t blench. With coldblooded lucidity, they now assert that the ‘feral, failed cities’ of the Third World – especially their slum outskirts – will be the distinctive battlespace of the twenty-first century. Pentagon doctrine is being reshaped accordingly to support a low-intensity world war of unlimited duration against criminalized segments of the urban poor.’ (205)
- ‘This delusionary dialectic of securitized versus demonic urban places, in turn, dictates a sinister and unceasing duet: Night after night, hornetlike helicopter gunships stalk enigmatic enemies in the narrow streets of the slum districts, pouring hellfire into shanties or fleeing cars. Every morning the slums reply with suicide bombers and eloquent explosions. If the empire can deploy Orwellian technologies of repression, its outcasts have the gods of chaos on their side.’ (206) 

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