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New Left Review 40, July-August 2006

Jan Breman on Mike Davis, Planet of Slums. Panorama of the epochal shift to a majority urban world, with the vast mass of the destitute driven to subsistence tactics in their villas miseria.



Our epoch is witnessing a world-historic shift in human habitat: for the first time, more than half the global population will soon be city dwellers, in one form or another. The small-scale settlements that have been the cradle of peasant work and life for many thousands of years—the myriad villages, compact or dispersed, spread out across the countryside—are no longer home to the majority of mankind. The massive expulsion of labour from agriculture, accelerating over the last half-century, has been accompanied by an exodus from the villages. At present, 3.2 billion people are congregated in towns and cities. Their number is expected to grow to 10 billion in the middle of this century. This gigantic shift is mainly taking place in the zones of the South: within the next two decades, metropoles such as Jakarta, Dhaka, Karachi, Shanghai or Mumbai will each have 25 million inhabitants or more.

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Jan Breman, ‘Slumlands’, NLR 40: £3

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