Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities forever transformed the discipline of urban planning by concentrating on what actually helped cities work. Unencumbered by generations of fatuous theorizing, Jacobs proposed a model of action that has left a positive mark in neighborhoods all over the world. Her latest salvo, Dark Age Ahead, is, despite the pessimism of many of its conclusions, also positive, less a jeremiad than a firm but helpful reminder of just how much is at stake. Jacobs sees "ominous signs of decay" in five "pillars" of our culture: family, community, higher education, science and "self policing by the learned professions." Each is given a detailed treatment, with sympathetic but hard-headed real-world assessments that are often surprising and always provocative and well-expressed. Her chapter on the decline of the nuclear family completely avoids the moral hand-wringing of the kindergarten Cassandras to place the blame on an economy that has made the affordable home either an unattainable dream or a crippling debt. Her discussion of the havoc wrought by the lack of accountability seems ripped from any number of headlines, but her analysis of the larger effects sets it apart. A lifetime of unwasted experience in a number of fields has gone into this short but pungent book, and to ignore its sober warnings would be foolish indeed. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities) defines a dark age as a period of cultural amnesia, when a society forgets its beliefs, customs, knowledge, language, practices, etc. A dark age can be caused by outside forces or by a culture itself, and she fears that North America is creating its own version of the latter. An introductory chapter identifies five threatened pillars of North American culture: family and community, higher education, science and science-based technology, taxation powers and policies, and professional self-policing. Subsequent chapters define these pillars and the dangers to them and consider the consequences of their collapse. Jacobs places arguments in historical context, contending, for example, that the transformation of North American colleges and universities from institutions of higher learning to credential factories has its roots in the Great Depression and the resulting obsession with joblessness. Jacobs does not believe a North American dark age inevitable, leavening her ominous predictions with practical solutions and mordant humor. Scholarly yet accessible, and certain to spark debate, this unique addition to the genre of social forecasting is highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-M.C. Duhig, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Social philosopher Jacobs (Systems of Survivals, 1992, etc.) warns that the collapse of Western Civilization is in the cards, unless we start reshuffling our economic, cultural, and political decks with alacrity. The author begins with some generous praise of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997), crediting him for the seed that sprouted into the flower of her thesis: Diamond explained why some cultures won and others lost, but he did not sufficiently explore the question of why some successful cultures collapse. (Diamond has been at work for some years on just such a book, as yet unpublished.) Jacobs argues that what she calls the "five pillars of our culture" are in jeopardy. These comprise families and communities, higher education, science and technology, taxes and governmental power, and, finally, the self-policing of learned professions. This seems a motley mix, but Jacobs can write, and so by the end her arguments and admonitions all appear persuasive and disquieting. She has the knack of looking with a fresh eye at a phenomenon we all think we understand (e.g., the collapse of the nuclear family, the decay of the modern city) and pointing out what few of us have noticed. She explains how the advent of the city bus as a replacement for the electric streetcar has fouled the air, clogged the streets, and sent maintenance costs (and thus transportation costs) soaring. Streetcars are much cheaper to buy and maintain-and they last three times longer, she says. She patiently explains economic concepts like "subsidarity" and "fiscal accountability" and shows how powerful central governments that collect large income taxes are sucking away from cities and other communities theresources they need to pay for transportation, health care, and education. But she also takes some powerful swipes at tax-cutting neocons: "The tax cuts' chief benefit, as far as I can see, is the emotional satisfaction they bring to ideologues." Jacobs advocates multi-use boulevards and chides us for cultural hubris. Crisp, entertaining, scholarly, scary.
“Jane Jacobs: guru, philosopher, thinker, elder … radical.”
“Jacobs argues that what she calls the 'five pillars of our culture' are in jeopardy. These comprise families and communities, higher education, science and technology, taxes and governmental power, and, finally, the self-policing of learned professions. . . . Jacobs can write, and so by the end her arguments and admonitions all appear persuasive and disquieting. Crisp, entertaining, scholarly, scary.”
“A treat to read for the way it snaps our perceptions into focus.”
—The San Francisco Chronicle
“The clairvoyance of her plain-spoken prose has, for the past half-century, been astonishing.”
“We will ignore her predictions at our peril. Her latest book on cities and civilization could not have come at a more appropriate time…. Anyone living in a city needs to read this book…. It’s a call to action delivered in a readable and engrossing fashion. I needed this book. We all need to pay greater attention to how we are fouling our own nest.”
“Dense with dynamic thoughts and delivered in a way that is simultaneously concise, ruminative and non-confrontational.”
—The Vancouver Sun
“If the moment has come to announce the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, let us be thankful the job has fallen to someone has clear-eyed and compassionate as legendary urban critic Jane Jacobs.”
—The Georgia Straight
Praise for Jane Jacobs:
“Probably no single thinker has done more in the last fifty years to transform our ideas about the nature of urban life.”
“[Jacobs] is a thinker of wondrous acumen and curiosity looking still deeper into the human condition.”
—The Globe and Mail
“Jane Jacobs has become more than a person. She is an adjective.”