Contrasting urban species

City Worlds. First Edition - The City in the Developing World. First Edition
May 28, 1999

These two books could not be more different in style and content and at the same time address a common body of material. They are both about cities and both about cities in the developing (or third) world.

The City in the Developing World establishes itself from the first few pages as a compendium of material on this topic. This encyclopaedic approach has strengths and weaknesses. Its strength lies in its authoritative collation of a vast amount of well-referenced material. Its weakness lies in its emphasis on cataloguing and not explaining. After several detailed chapters on the nature of urbanisation, theoretical perspectives, global development, employment, health care and housing, there is a still a profound lack of explanation, understanding and linkage. The text is intended for undergraduates and masters students. For anyone wanting to know what everyone else (or nearly everyone else) has said on this subject this is fine, but the book sheds very little light on the dynamics of developing country cities in a globalised world.

Unnecessarily cluttered with a great deal of 1960s-type geography focusing on ideal city types, this book misses many opportunities to establish a real understanding of what is actually happening in these cities and the extent to which this is entirely unavoidable or susceptible to successful intervention.

City Worlds is, by contrast, full of life and energy. It exudes an enthusiasm for cities and a real sense of understanding of their intensity, diversity, sociability and community. Through detailed and reflective discussion the reader is left with a clear picture of the nature of cities, of their spatial structures, linkages, feelings and meanings. This is challenging material, but it gets to the heart of the subject in a way the first book does not.

The style, graphics, readings and questions in City Worlds reflect the high standard that is common to Open University material. It is well suited to the needs of all undergraduate and postgraduate courses in geography, planning and development.

John Whitelegg is at the school of the built environment, Liverpool John Moores University.

City Worlds. First Edition

Editor - Doreen Massey, John Allen and Steve Pile
ISBN - 0 415 20069 5 and 20070 9
Publisher - Routledge, in association with the Open University
Price - £45.00 and £14.99
Pages - 185

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