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Jacobs - Dark Age Ahead (2004) - Synopsis

Jacobs - Dark Age Ahead (2004) - Synopsis

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Published by Mark K. Jensen
Synopsis of Jane Jacobs, Dark Age Ahead (New York: Vintage/Random House, 2005). Original edition January 2004. -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on April 12, 2010.
Synopsis of Jane Jacobs, Dark Age Ahead (New York: Vintage/Random House, 2005). Original edition January 2004. -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on April 12, 2010.

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Published by: Mark K. Jensen on Apr 11, 2010
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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper CXX: April 12, 2010, 7:00 p.m. 
 Jane Jacobs,
Dark Age Ahead 
(New York: Vintage/Random House, 2005).Original edition January 2004.
"[W]e [in North America and possibly inWestern Europe as well, but her analysis isconfined to North America (26)] show signs of rushing headlong into a Dark Age; this book aims"to help our culture avoid sliding into a dead end"(4).]
Ch. 1: The Hazard.
Dark Ages lead to culturalamnesia (3-5). Writing and the Internet lull us,but real cultures "live through word of mouth andexample" (5) and are in a state of constantchange (6). Dark Ages are "horrible ordeals"producing "mass amnesia"; Rome and aboriginalcultures as examples (6, 7; 6-11). JaredDiamond's
Guns, Germs, and Steel
demonstratesthe role of "geographical luck" (12; 11-16). KarenArmstrong on the decline of the once FertileCrescent (16-17). China's excessivecentralization (17-19). Diamond focuses onwinners, but what about losers ? (20-21; of courseDiamond would do just that in
[December 2004, eleven months after
Dark Age Ahead 
]). The "pendulum effect" can be stymiedby human interests (21-24). Jacobs admits to anarbitrary choice of five institutions to analyze thatare "pillars of our culture" (24-25). Her book is awarning not to take America as an exemplarymodel (26).
Ch. 2: Families Rigged to Fail.
; the latter "take over functions thatfamilies are at a loss to fill" (29; 27-29). Familiesare in difficulty; income no longer suffices topurchase housing (Jacobs predicts the bursting of the housing bubble [32], but later in the bookhedges her bets [148]) (29-34). Communityneeds; the nuclear family cannot meet them (34-36). The car as destroyer of community; RobertMoses as "a master obliterator" (37; 36-38).General Motors sabotaged mass transit (38-43).
Ch. 3: Credentialing versus Educating.
"Credentialing, not educating, has become theprimary business of North American universities"(44). A degree is "a passport to consideration fora job" (45). A rambling argument traces thedevelopment of "credentialism" to designation of "the American purpose of life" as the job (57; 45-63).
Ch. 4: Science Abandoned.
Remarks onscience (64-68). "How" vs. "why" questions (68-69). Examples and anecdotes (70-101). [One of the silliest general discussions of science I'veever read.]
Ch. 5: Dumbed-Down Taxes.
Subsidiarity andfiscal responsibility (102-12). Denunciation of neoconservative "Washington consensus" or"reinvented government" as practiced in Canada(113-23). Aid that fails to reach those it isintended for (123-24).
Ch. 6: Self-Policing Subverted.
A ramblingcritique of the accounting profession (125-38).
Ch. 7: Unwinding Vicious Spirals.
Analysis of housing shortages (139-47). Remarks on roads,clearly an obsession (147-51). Suburbs, andwhether densification can help (answer: itdepends) (151-57). Greater efficiency is not thesolution (157-60).
Ch. 8: Dark Age Patterns.
Notes and Comments.
It's up the reader toguess which sources and comments apply towhich passages in the text (177-222).
Editors and contributors of ideas and sources (223-24).
17 pp.
About the Author.
 Jane Jacobs
describedherself self-importantly as the "legendary author"best known for
The Death and Life of Great  American Cities
(1961), a book that "has nevergone out of print and that has transformed thedisciplines of urban planning and cityarchitecture" ([iii]).[
Additional information. Jane Jacobs
wasborn Jane Butzner on May 4, 1916, in Scranton,PA. Her father was a doctor and her mother aformer teacher and nurse. After high school,where she was an indifferent student, she workedon the
Scranton Tribune,
then went to New YorkCity, where she worked her work as a freelancewriter led during World War II to a job with theOffice of War Information, where she metarchitect Robert Hyde Jacobs and married him in1944. They had two sons and a daughter. Shetook courses in geology, zoology, law, politicalscience, and economics at Columbia. She wasactive in opposition to urban expressways andsupported neighborhoods for people rather thancars. In 1962 she chaired the Joint Committee toStop the Lower Manhattan Expressway and didbattle with Robert Moses. In 1968, in large partbecause of the Vietnam war (she and her familyparticipated in the 1967 march on the Pentagon)she moved to Toronto, where she lived until herdeath on Apr. 25, 2006, at the age of 89; shebecame a Canadian citizen in 1974. In Torontoshe helped stop the Spadina Expressway. Sheargued that "Cities, to thrive in the 21st century,must separate themselves politically from theirsurrounding areas." Though her first book hasbeen her most influential contribution, she was

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