Sunday, April 30, 2006

Jane Jacobs RIP

Jane Jacobs was one of Canada's most influential public intellectuals, along with Marshall Mcluhan .

While an American by birth she was Canadian by choice. Her work on cities and urban culture changed the view of the metropol for many an urban planner, architect, and municipal libertarian/socialists.

The life and death of Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs, one of the greatest legends of Greenwich Village, died on Tuesday. Though she had moved to Toronto some years ago, Jacobs — who was 89 — will never be forgotten here.

Greenwich Village, Soho, Little Italy and the Lower East Side would not be the same today without Jacobs’s pivotal efforts to save large parts of them from misguided planning and transportation schemes.
In 1969 Jacobs moved to Toronto, and was involved in stopping the Spadina Expressway, arguing that cities are for people not cars. Although cited as the originator of the term “social capital,” Jacobs’ concept of urban development is the struggle by neighbourhoods for “self-government,” and her ideas are far removed from advocating accumulation of any kind of capital.

She was an original thinker and activist intellectual like Saul Alinsky and Noam Chomsky.

Her first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961, became a bible for neighbourhood organizers and what she termed the “foot people”. Her views embraced the marketplace, supported privatization of utilities, frowned on subsidies, and detested the intrusions of government, big or small. “I’m kind of an atheist,” she said. “As for being a rightist or a leftist, it doesn’t make any sense to me. I think ideologies are blinders.”

Her work influenced the Montreal Citizens Movement and folks around Black Rose Books, as well as hearlding a libertarian municipalism that Murray Bookchin would later promote.

Mrs. Jacobs scorned nationalism and argued in her 1980 book, The Question of Separatism, that Quebec would be better off leaving Canada. Moreover, she argued that some cities would be better off as independent economic and political units.

She published her last book in 2000 at the age of 83. She passed away this week in Toronto at the age of 89.

The central premise of her book, The Nature of Economies, is that economics is a web of connected forces subject to the same laws as all other living things in nature. At the time in March, 2000, she told The Star’s Judy Stoffman: “This will be a radical idea to those who think of human beings as being outside nature. Human beings are neither adversaries of or the inevitable masters of nature. They live by the same processes as all nature.”

Outgrowing Jane Jacobs and Her New York New York Times

Jane Jacobs, mischief-maker and contrarian

Jane Jacobs, 1916–2006 In a way, Jane Jacobs, who died this week, did to urban renewal what Rachel Carson did to DDT and Ralph Nader did to the Corvair.

The Rich Life of Jane Jacobs CounterPunch,

What Jane Jacobs did for Ottawa

My friend Jane Jacobs

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1 comment:

Mark Francis said...

It's a rare day in my neighborhood that I don't think of her observations in 'Death and Life'

I studied her and Mumford, and garden cities and the like in university (I nearly became an urban planner), and it's absolutely incredible how clueless urban planners were and still are.

Go into almost any suburb and you'll see that there are many houses, but few neighborhoods. Everything stands as a monolithic tribute to privacy and mobility, trumping community and access.