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Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism Paperback – June 1, 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the evil paradises of this uneven anthology edited by scholars Davis and Monk, the free market coddles the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. With contributions from academics, architects and journalists, the essays explore how cities like Beijing and Johannesburg disregard good governance for prestige projects adored by the nomadic business elite. Though the message is consistent, the tone wanders from a fun and flimsy piece on Orange County by journalist Rebecca Schoenkopf to history professor Jon Wiener's overly somber look at Ted Turner's two million–acre landholding. In one essay, Davis launches a salvo at Dubai, distilling the glittering emirate into Milton Friedman's Beach Club, powered by the labor of imported near-slaves. California-style gated housing developments are a recurring theme, popping up in Iran and Hong Kong. More original is science fiction novelist China Miéville's brilliant essay Floating Utopias about a seafaring metropolis and tax haven to dwarf the largest ocean liner. The catch? This libertarian dream project will probably never be built because that philosophy, Miéville explains, is for people too small, incompetent or insufficiently connected to avoid taxes or, for that matter, to build a boat equipped with an airport. Even when it's not so pithy, this leftist world tour reminds us of development's human cost. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

As neoliberal economic policies are increasingly applied to city planning, urban spaces worldwide increasingly reflect the deliberate effort to amass capital and stimulate consumer spending. The most dramatic neoliberal development schemes—private archipelagoes in Dubai, gated communities in Hong Kong, the Mall of America in Minnesota—can even be said to resemble capitalist utopias, free of the chaotic diversity of city life and immune from concern for the welfare of the broader public. As emphasized by each of the 19 pieces in this collection, however, every "dreamworld of neoliberalism" constitutes a spatial manifestation of inequality, serving the interests of an increasingly international bourgeois class at the expense of the global poor. Although voicing generally similar variations on a theme of socioeconomic inequality, these articles cover a diverse group of localities (including Beijing and Orange County, California) from a variety of generally scholarly perspectives. Its best moments may be where it is most interdisciplinary, such as in Don Mitchell's analysis of neoliberalism at the Supreme Court in Virginia v. Hicks. Driscoll, Brendan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (June 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595583920
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595583925
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
By the time you're done reading about the guy in the US who is arrested while delivering pampers because the city streets he walked all his life were privatized, or about the offshore hotels inhabited by the super rich so they never pay taxes in any country, or about Ted Turner's autonomous kingdom in Patagonia you'll start to put two and two together. This book does what I haven't seen anyone else do: look at the world we're heading towards by checking out the mini-'utopias' that the planet's plutocracy fashion for themselves in denial of inequality they produce. As the Dude put it: "New s@#t has come to light." Now what are we gonna do about it?
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed Davis's "City of Quartz" about Los Angeles, and I thought I'd enjoy this collection of essays, edited by Davis. The problem with a collection of essays is that there is no common style and no common approach to the book's theme. On the positive side, there is always something that each person will like, and at least a few essays will strike a chord with anyone interested enough to open the book.

The theme - and it's a loose one - is that the world's nouveaux riches are creating poorly designed communities that isolate them from the broader society, and in the long run, these communities are not in anyone's self-interest, not even the self-interest of the people who live in them. For Americans, the archetype of this phenomenon is the gated suburban development in which McMansions sit on overly-spacious plots of land. Numerous countries, especially those with the worst income inequalities, are copying the phenomenon of the gated community, in which the well-to-do try to isolate themselves from their fellow citizens.

Here are the topics covered by these essays: New luxury suburbs in Egypt, Iran, Dubai, China, Hong Kong, South Africa, Nicaragua, Hungary, Columbia, and Brazil. Several essays are about the US from various angles, covering Minneapolis, Sun City (Arizona), Orange County (California), and Richmond (Virginia). There are essays about Ted Turner's rural landholdings in New Mexico and elsewhere, self-aggrandizing museums in the US, the fad of experiencing monastery life for brief visits, and an essay about planned "floating utopias" in international waters.

Some of the essays are excellent (e.g., the essay about Hong Kong, or the saga of of the man arrested for being on a "public" sidewalk in Richmond), while others are hodgepodges of leftist jargon.
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Format: Paperback
The style of writing by many of the contributors takes some getting used to if you're not familiar with the approaches and language of cultural criticism. Sociologist, psychologists, and cultural theorists of the French Left are quoted often. With the exception of the first three essays, the approaches to the subject are theoretical/philosophical speculations and are at odds with hard facts. The language and style lends itself a theoretical aridness in a fair number of the essays and in some there is an underlying tone of animosity towards those possessing wealth. One has second thoughts as to whether the message being delivered is a consequence of analysis or ideology. However, sufficient evidence is provided to conclude that the evils of neoliberalism are convoluted with a desire to create urban enclaves for those who can afford it but at the expense of the underclass. This disparity is significantly more pronounced in third world countries not having democratic protections. In turn the segregation of communities within the urban environment contributes to a dehumanizing effect on society.

The aspect of politics comingled with crime is brought into the picture with a discussion of the socio-political dynamics in countries where corruption can operate with an unfettered hand. One particularly good example of this situation is Columbian narco-terrorism coincident with neoliberalism in the power struggles of the 1980s & 90s. The breakdown in the static social and economic structure was precipitated by a breakdown in export markets and an unwillingness to share the economic and social benefits with those whose labor was used in obtaining them.
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Format: Paperback
Behind the glitz and glamor of many of paradises in this world is an interwoven network of corruption, fear, and oligarchical rule. From Hong Kong to Los Angeles, a new style of living is enabling the super-rich and their affluent elbow rubbers to wall themselves up and live in the ivory towers above the serfdom they created. A bleak picture, I know, but it is the picture painted by editors Mike Davis and Daniel Bertrand Monk in their essay collection Evil Paradises. This book is a collection of nineteen essays specially selected to broaden the horizon of the reader as regards the state of the wealth gap and how it shapes national and urban developments throughout the world. As stated by Davis in the introduction, " Evil Paradises addresses a simple but epochal question: Toward what kind of future are we being led by savage, fanatical capitalism?" (Davis IX). Taking this to heart, the editors compiled a list of essays quite worthy of the title. Standout authors and topics include: Timothy Mitchell addressing the questionable leadership in Egypt in his essay Dreamland, Anthony Fontenot and Ajmal Maiwandi reporting on the state of the city of Kabul, Laura Ruggeri's take on the false Palm Springs in Hong Kong guarded by mercenaries and money, and pieces from both editors Davis and Monk tackling Dubai and Neoliberalism respectively.

The major themes in this collection are based in a strong anti-capitalism that believes that no good can come from unrestrained wealth, development, and social control. Essentially, the essays contained within show the evils that arise when capitalism is so laissez faire that it gets taken to its extreme end resulting in a wide margin between the wealthy and impoverished.
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