Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs was the world's best known urbanist and also widely regarded as an ethicist. She had also received the Order_of_Canada and Order_of_Ontario. Born May 4, 1916, lived in Canada since 1968, and died April 25, 2006, she was extremely influential in the urban planning of New York City and Toronto. She is credited in particular with preventing the Spadina Expressway in Toronto and the Cross-Manhattan Expressway in New York. The third hour of PBS's four-hour series on New York was devoted entirely to Jacobs' struggle against Robert Moses whose expressways had devastated the Bronx.

Robert Fulford said "she was an unlikely intellectual warrior, a theorist who opposed most theories, a teacher with no teaching job and no university degree, a writer who wrote well but infrequently."

Refer link Jane_Jacobs.

great cities

In Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961, review, she offered a powerful critique of the so-called "urban renewal" policies of US cities in the 1950s. Her book is credited with reaching beyond planning issues to influence the spirit of the times. "Jacobs came down firmly on the side of spontaneous inventiveness of individuals, as against abstract plans imposed by governments and corporations," wrote Canadian critic Robert Fulford. Sewell describes it as "engaging... a joy to read" especially for its account of New York City prior to Robert Moses. A conflict Sewell summarizes as "She believed in the vitality and complexity of the city. He didn't."

champion of the core

According to John Sewell, Jacobs claimed that, "Cities can't work well if they're cut through with expressways... If you're fighting an expressway, just remember, it has nine lives... you're going to have to kill it over and over again."

"Most of urban areas now are suburban sprawl... mind-numbing... Jane opposed that very strongly... Not enough people who make decisions about cities take her seriously... building really interesting communities."

"It's the dense compact part of cities that's the most interesting... it's not the place to be feared, it's not the place to be run away from... a lesson that people are beginning to learn... Many cities are now coming back to life becaue of the ideas of Jane Jacobs... that will be her legacy...


In Canadian Cities and Sovereignty Association, 1979, Jacobs spoke of the utility of monetary reforms and the extreme difficulty of having one stewsinc at eol.ca" class="wiki wiki_page">monetary policy to deal with very different economic conditions.

Also in that book, Jacobs argued the basic positions that led her to her strong support for a Province of Toronto, a cause she championed from its beginnings, to the introduction of a new Toronto Act in 2006. Longtime ally David Miller touted this as having achieved most of the powers of a province that were demanded by such groups as the Province of Toronto Party. Nor were Jacobs' arguments confined to her home city:

"Urban areas that wish to thrive in the 21st century," she says, "will separate politically from their surrounding areas." As did Carol Moore she advanced the theory of secession focusing specifically on urban secession.

guardians vs. traders

In Systems of Survival, Jacobs characterized her basic ethical model, which she says goes back to Plato, two contrasting mindsets required to deal with power.

"We need guardians, the symbiotic arrangements in which they are" working with traders, the contrasting mindset. "That symbiosis between guards and the commercial people, in which we're not unique at all in the present, if that breaks down, you're a goner."

"The commercial people are the ones that cover most activities, especially buying and selling, and developing, and expanding, most of economic life. They have certain rules they have learned as a body over the years. For instance, to get along with strangers. They don't need to know everybody they buy a loaf of bread from, or sell a loaf of bread to. They deal with strangers on a trusting and amiable basis... They shun force, not forcing people to buy things they don't want. Not take their money from them just because they take out their purse. To deal with strangers honestly. That's very important to have a well run commercial aspect of life, to be industrious. Not to be afraid of novelty. They like new things. Not to be afraid of comfort, and, also, putting yourself in your customer's place, when you think about comfort - you want to make yourself comfortable for them. Don't fritter away your money, put it away, you want to put it back into the business. Don't be afraid of getting ahead. You don't have to take anyone else's say-so of how things are... if you think some new product is needed in the world, you can press for it. You're all about development. That means always adding things... it never is about subtracting things. .. those are the principal ones that come to mind right away. These virtues don't undermine each other and aren't contradictory."

The guardian syndrome "depends on loyalty, that's a chief good, treachery and betrayal, that's the worst. That's partially due to power, being able to use power is the business of the guards and the guardians. And if they are bribed, which is a way of becoming commercial, we sometimes call it 'selling out', they can't be loyal do-goods as they should for doing their job. So 'shun trade' is their great negative... and 'embrace power' is the guardian's big virtue, while to 'shun power' used on others is the traders' virtue." Guardians also can "use deceit on behalf of the institution, you can have spies, you can play tricks of various kinds, you can have ambushes. If it's on behalf of the institution, the culture you're protecting, it's all right to use deceit, that's not true of the commercial people." The guardians use deceit for the greater good. "It's very hard to be a good guardian."

"We are cultivating monstrous moral hybrids like crazy these days, they are often called public-private partnerships. So a university and a drugco will have a P3 to do testing of some drug or exploiting it in some ways. It doesn't work out well... particularly in a complex economy and society like our own, where we don't think it's ideal that people should stay in one narrow group, they have to have understood that the rules are different, those two things. They have to understand what are the differences, and a little bit of the reasons why they are." She wrote Systems of Survival because "this was being forgotten... there were many signs that even the strict professions had become loosened from their moorings... a refresher course would be good for people."

"My job is to generate outres-ideas... that's a self-appointed job."

bereft of communities

"Two parents, to say nothing of one, cannot possibly satisfy all the needs of a family household... a community is a complex organism... its resources fall into three main categories:"
  • tangible resources that all families need and that no family can provide for themselves: schools, libraries, roads, and so on
  • commercial and nonprofit services
  • thoroughly informal, intangible, speaking relationships among neighbours and acquaintances in addition to friends

Everyone needs neighbours and acquaintances. Two people in isolation "can easily become stressed" and separated. "One can drive through suburbs for hours and never see a human being". For communities to exist, people must encounter each other in person. "It hasn't been television or illegal drugs but rather the automobile that has been the chief destroyer of communities."

"Robert Moses, the nearest thing to a dictator that New York and New Jersey have suffered so far... was a master obliterator. If he'd had his way, one of Manhattan's most vibrant, diverse, and economically productive neighbourhoods, Soho, would have been sacrificed to an expressway."

"Many people have opposed what has happened... some who are fortunate enough to have communities... fight to keep them... after it's lost, gradually even the memory of what was lost, is lost. In miniature, this is the malady of Dark Ages."

"At any time, the destruction of communities to enhance sales" is a mistake. However despite the Post-WWII period being an especially intense shift from commodity-based production to ingenuity-based production, which led to a great migration of peoples, there was a collapse of the very communities required. In late classical Rome there was also such a need for strong communities to absorb peoples into them. They didn't, and, the civilization was forfeit.

Prisons replace households in a society that is so failing, until of course these too become unaffordable.

cargo cult science

In addition to community, science also suffers in such a Dark Age:

The question chain is the mindset associated with the scientific method. It is the opening of new questions from theories and laws that are accepted after rigorous empirical testing that attempts honestly, but fails, to disprove them. See falsification on this.

The framing of questions, similar to deep framing in politics (science itself being "inherently deep"), is where it's easiest to see science go off-track as a process:

For the integrity of science itself as a process, the body of inquiry cannot become dissociated from the evidence.

In her 2005 book Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs lists traffic engineering, the Chicago heat wave and the Toronto mystery jobs, as having coupled a scientific appearance or frame with a professional contempt for scientifically rigorous behaviour. This results in what Richard Feynman calls "cargo cult science" which looks like, but is not, capable of yielding knowledge.

"The rot of bad science", as she puts it, can end any and all scientific and technological superiority and even undo what exists. And much of this is due to over-control by central power. According to Jacobs:

"The institutions involved are standing in the way, there ought to be more looseness... it's not a great shame that you don't know what you're doing, you're just trying to learn something, you're just trying to find out, you're just curious. But now curiosity is getting to be almost, well, it's not lean and mean enough, it won't pay it's way."

Jacobs also dismisses the need for vast infrastructural capital and decries the infrastructure bias it leads to: "It's just as easy for one person with their brains and their equipment to discover things now as it was in 1850. And in fact the idea that it's so expensive, takes so many people, and committees, and all that, it may be a good part of what is holding back science in the way I'm talking about."

"Think what a pushover Ontario has been, and a large part of Canada has been, for young neo-conservatives. They've run over the schools as much as they can, they've run over the hospitals... removing the concept of equality... because so little was done to keep ideas in repair...and a kind of smugness.. things got out of repair so badly" both physically and intellectually. The questions arising in the Common Sense Revolution were thus not part of any rational scientific question chain at all.


The most basic question is that of cultural amnesia, and it is one others seek to explore:

"One person, Jane, does not have the time or the wherewithal to study all the questions raised by her conclusions... if she is even partly right in her conclusions it is a challenge for those of us who seek non-Dark-Age solutions." - Robert Jacobs (no relation), at a conference in Toronto called to discuss her latest work.

It's not as if Jacobs' views have gone unchallenged - especially by conventional economists: "I don't see any Dark Age in this picture. To be fair, I've aggregated the entire world history into five curves so maybe there's something not in the picture... I share Karl Marx's view that capitalism rescued billions from the idiocy of rural life... if the governments will let 'em, millions of people will be flowing into the cities, introduced to the possibilities of city life, there they will have possibilities they never had before... is it the end of agrarianism? If it is, why not celebrate it? It's true that many... move to slums... but they choose to do so... rural-urban migration is a positive thing for 95%" - Robert Lucas, an economist contesting Jacobs' views.

Of course, economists rarely include biology in analyses. What might be called biological amnesia is at the heart of her analysis, claims Norman Wierzba. In a talk called "the forgetting of soil", he says:
"...Jacobs has correctly identified five pillars of culture that we cannot live well without. Yet they are presently being undermined by political, economic, civic, social malfunction... growing gap between rich and poor become virtually inevitable... if the foundation is in trouble so is everything else built upon it. Given the significance of foundations, roots, if I might change the metaphor...one has mistakenly been left out... one of the characteristics of a Dark Age is mass amnesia. People can forget what is important or necessary... at various points in the book Jacobs tells us we are living in a post-agrarian time... Never before in human history have so few people had anything to do with the growth of their own food... Very few of us have any realistic or honest idea of where food comes from, and, under what conditions it can be expected to be safely and reliably produced... if we mean that culture can lessen its attention to the land... we have a problem."

Wendell Berry, "we and our country create one another, depend on one another, are literally part of one another... all who are living as neighbours here, are part of one another, and so cannot possibly flourish alone." As long as we live in bodies we necessarily live through the land, and accordingly will share its health or the lack of same: ecosystem health.

"Cultures live through word of mouth and example... what face to face apprenticeships will pass on the knowledge we need to live well in bodies that are themselves" visceral and bodily. "We all need to take on agrarian sensibilities... wherever we live... farmers often out of intense economic pressure, have been willing to sacrifice either the land, or, the curiosity... have just as often been exploiters... This is not how agrarianism needs to be... if other beings go into decline, we are sure to follow... biological or ecological amnesia... concerns me..." but is largely ignored in Jacobs' own analysis.

"The shift from agricultural to exclusively urban life is, practically speaking, a movement beyond biology itself. What will remind us that we are natural biological beings...with ecological responsibilities...There is unprecedented ignorance... We do not yet have an adequate accounting system that would tell us the true costs of our lifestyles... I depend on others far away... gross commodification... nothing will remain sacred... People were asked what they thought of President Bush's ludicrous plan to settle humans in outer space... many felt it was 'only a matter of time before this planet became uninhabitable by us'..." How people who cannot take care of a lush planet could thrive in dead space was of course not considered.

"What is at issue is whether or not we can learn the ways of restraint and respect... emulate cultures well developed... a more clearly defined place for the pillars of culture. Can we have wisdom and delight without... a vision of reality as intrinsically valuable and worthy of our love. A central problem of our time is that many of us... are destroying the very bases on which life depends. How will we learn to see our own destructiveness?...to help people to get there. Particularly people who think things are fine just as they are." - Norman Wierzba