"She once again has proven herself to be one of the most trenchant observers and challenging critics of American culture and character." —The Christian Science Monitor
"There's no writer more lucid than Jane Jacobs, nobody better at using wide-open eyes and clean courtly prose to decipher the changing world around us. . . . It's a tribute to Jacobs that her observations still resonate, succinct yet dead on. That's why Dark Age Ahead is a treat to read for the way it snaps our perceptions into focus." —San Francisco Chronicle
"A short, dense, terse and often lyrical book that sets the wistful against the hopeful. . . . Wonderful and essential." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Dark Age Ahead is witty and damning. . . . It's hard to disagree with Jane Jacobs. . . . Worth reading and thinking about." —The Washington Post Book World
"Jane Jacobs has been right about so much for so long that when she writes gloomily of a 'Dark Age Ahead,' we all better listen…. Prescient." —Austin-American Statesman
"[Jacobs is] the matchless analyst of all things urban." —The New Yorker
"A short, terse and often lyrical book that sets the wistful against the hopeful. . . . This book is a warning, artfully and profoundly dressed as a reminder. . . . Thanks to Jacobs for pointing the way." —St. Petersburg Times
"Scholarly yet accessible . . . certain to spark debate . . . [a] unique addition to the genre of social forecasting." —Library Journal
"Compact and compelling…A spellbinding account of the forgetting and misplacing of shared values, assets and skills that . . . may lead the contemporary Western world into widespread social, economic and physical disaster." —Toronto Globe and Mail
"Still right and still cranky after all these years." —Cincinnati Enquirer
"Jacobs has always championed neighborhoods. Now she has extended her ideas about community to include the culture at large…We should stick around and listen up." —Newsweek
"Jacobs is the quintessential public intellectual, entirely self-taught, omnivorous in her references, pan-historical in her outlook. . . . Dark Age Ahead is something of a retrospective of Jacobs' theories and travels, anchored in specific examples from her years of observation and activism." —The Sunday Oregonian (Portland)
"Culture critic Jane Jacobs, famous for her work on the economies of cities, has taken the idea of a tipping point toward a dramatic end." —Chicago Tribune
"A sweeping survey of a civilization—ours—on the brink of catastrophe. . . . What makes Dark Age Ahead worth a read is the way in which its author brings her famously independent and inductive mind to bear in fresh ways on familiar topics." —Berkeley Daily Planet
"A blend of advocacy and anecdote about how to protect the vitality of American cities." —The Financial Times
"Jane Jacobs is the kind of writer who produces in her readers such changed ways of looking at the world that she becomes an oracle, or final authority." —The New York Sun
Dark Age Ahead is certainly worth reading and thinking about.
The Washington Post
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.