The Urban Transformation of the Developing World

The Urban Transformation of the Developing World

The Urban Transformation of the Developing World

The Urban Transformation of the Developing World


More than any other, this moment in history is one of urban transition. Almost half the world's population currently lives in urban settlements, and the last phase of this momentous transformation is now occurring in the less developed countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This edited volume presents regional studies of Third World urbanization, documents of unprecedented change in an ever-changing world. These records of historical, sociological, and demographic import will interest both professional planners and academics in the social sciences who are concerned with the many issues arising from urbanization. The studies in The Urban Transformation of the Developing World provide thorough investigations and telling comparisons of the major regions now experiencing rapid urbanization. Considerable attention is given throughout to the patterns of global transition, and to the social, political, and economic consequences in store for these regions.


The urban transformation of the globe may come to be seen as the lasting legacy of the twentieth century. Already close to half the world's population lives in urban settlements. Now the last phase of this profound human transformation is playing itself out in the less developed countries of Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean: we are witnessing the urbanization of the globe. At this time, nearly two-thirds of the world's urban population, more than one and a half billion people, live in the cities of the South. Within little more than a generation their number will triple.

There has been a tendency to generalize about urbanization in the 'Third World'. But, of course, the countries thus commonly lumped together span three continents and are home to more than three- quarters of humanity. Not surprisingly then, there are important differences in the urban transformation across 'the South'. The first essay in this volume discusses these divergences as well as the convergences. The second essay presents the urban history of Asia, a region that holds more than half the world's population today, an urban history unparalleled in its time span, geographical spread, and cultural riches.

The next three essays discuss urbanization in the Third World's three largest countries, each the largest country within one of the three regions of Asia: China in East Asia, India in South Asia, and Indonesia in South-East Asia. Each of these three countries may be considered a region in its own right in terms of both the size of its population and its diversity. They thus present units of analysis that bear comparison with the other three major less developed World regions which are discussed in the last three essays: the Arab states, Africa South of the Sahara, and Latin America. Indeed, the population of China is about the same size as that of the Arab States, Africa, and Latin America combined. The three regions and three countries together represent more than 80 per cent of the population living in less developed countries.

I was fortunate in securing the collaboration of leading experts on these countries/regions. All but one contributed original essays. Our contributions reflect to some extent our diverse disciplinary orientations: six sociologists, an economist, a geographer, and an historian.

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