Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Jane Jacobs, RIP

Jane Jacobs has died. She was the author of probably the best modern book on cities, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which confounded the conventional wisdom of "urban renewal" in the early 1960s. Jacobs was herself non-ideological, and so it was interesting to watch over the years as she found devotees all across the political spectrum. In recnet years she became a favorite of the "smart growth" movement, which is mostly a liberal-left enthusiasm. I used to enjoy taunting "smart growthers" by pointing out that Jacobs outraged the urban planning intelligentsia in the 1960s, and that one of her early champions was William F. Buckley Jr. This usually gave her contemporary fans pause, because of course they are guilty of mis-reading her great book or reading selectively. We shall miss her, though her books will be read for decades to come.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Politically, she became very bad in her later years. Dark Age Ahead is an embarassment for its rants about "neo-conservatives." But Steve is certainly right about some of her other books. Admiration for her on the right is not unrelated to the fondness for small republican theory and the anti-Federalists, which, however, ought to be checked.

Jane’s "Systems of Survival" was one of my earliest introductions to political economy and it sparked years of follow-up reading. Its use of a Socratic dialog has been criticized by reviewers for being clunky but I found its thesis about the two systems of ethics very enlightening. RIP, Jane.

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