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.
[Thesis. "[W]e [in North America and possibly in Western Europe as well, but her analysis is confined 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 cultural amnesia (3-5). Writing and the Internet lull us, but real cultures "live through word of mouth and example" (5) and are in a state of constant change (6). Dark Ages are "horrible ordeals" producing "mass amnesia"; Rome and aboriginal cultures as examples (6, 7; 6-11). Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel demonstrates the role of "geographical luck" (12; 11-16). Karen Armstrong on the decline of the once Fertile Crescent (16-17). China's excessive centralization (17-19). Diamond focuses on winners, but what about losers ? (20-21; of course Diamond would do just that in Collapse [December 2004, eleven months after Dark Age Ahead]). The "pendulum effect" can be stymied by human interests (21-24). Jacobs admits to an arbitrary choice of five institutions to analyze that are "pillars of our culture" (24-25). Her book is a warning not to take America as an exemplary model (26). Ch. 2: Families Rigged to Fail. Families vs. households; the latter "take over functions that families are at a loss to fill" (29; 27-29). Families are in difficulty; income no longer suffices to purchase housing (Jacobs predicts the bursting of the housing bubble [32], but later in the book hedges her bets [148]) (29-34). Community needs; the nuclear family cannot meet them (3436). The car as destroyer of community; Robert Moses as "a master obliterator" (37; 36-38). General Motors sabotaged mass transit (38-43). Ch. 3: Credentialing versus Educating. "Credentialing, not educating, has become the primary business of North American universities" (44). A degree is "a passport to consideration for a job" (45). A rambling argument traces the development of "credentialism" to designation of "the American purpose of life" as the job (57; 4563). Ch. 4: Science Abandoned. Remarks on science (64-68). "How" vs. "why" questions (6869). Examples and anecdotes (70-101). [One of the silliest general discussions of science I've ever read.] Ch. 5: Dumbed-Down Taxes. Subsidiarity and fiscal responsibility (102-12). Denunciation of neoconservative "Washington consensus" or "reinvented government" as practiced in Canada (113-23). Aid that fails to reach those it is intended for (123-24). Ch. 6: Self-Policing Subverted. A rambling critique 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, and whether densification can help (answer: it depends) (151-57). Greater efficiency is not the solution (157-60). Ch. 8: Dark Age Patterns. Notes and Comments. It's up the reader to guess which sources and comments apply to which passages in the text (177-222). Acknowledgments. Editors and contributors of ideas and sources (223-24). Index. 17 pp. About the Author. Jane Jacobs described herself self-importantly as the "legendary author" best known for The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), a book that "has never gone out of print and that has transformed the disciplines of urban planning and city architecture" ([iii]). [Additional information. Jane Jacobs was born Jane Butzner on May 4, 1916, in Scranton, PA. Her father was a doctor and her mother a former teacher and nurse. After high school, where she was an indifferent student, she worked on the Scranton Tribune, then went to New York City, where she worked her work as a freelance writer led during World War II to a job with the Office of War Information, where she met architect Robert Hyde Jacobs and married him in 1944. They had two sons and a daughter. She took courses in geology, zoology, law, political science, and economics at Columbia. She was active in opposition to urban expressways and supported neighborhoods for people rather than cars. In 1962 she chaired the Joint Committee to Stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway and did battle with Robert Moses. In 1968, in large part because of the Vietnam war (she and her family participated in the 1967 march on the Pentagon) she moved to Toronto, where she lived until her death on Apr. 25, 2006, at the age of 89; she became a Canadian citizen in 1974. In Toronto she helped stop the Spadina Expressway. She argued that "Cities, to thrive in the 21st century, must separate themselves politically from their surrounding areas." Though her first book has been her most influential contribution, she was

convinced that her later works were more important: The Economy of Cities (1969), The Question of Separatism: Quebec and the Struggle over Sovereignty-Association (1980), Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1984), Systems of Survival (1992), The Nature of Economies (2000). Dark Age Ahead is her last book.] [Critique. Dark Age Ahead is not an impressive
performance. Alice Sparbert Alexiou noted that Jacobs's last two books "received mixed reviews" and "do not in any way measure up to her great urban trilogy" (Jane Jacobs: Urban Visionary [Rutgers UP, 2006], 198). Dark Age Ahead is little more than a jeremiad filtering her longtime preoccupations through a sort of world history lite. The author, 87 at the time of publication, relied on popular works, articles from the press, observations, experiences, memories, and her own imagination— but not research. Her insights are shallow ("Life is full of surprises" [25]; "survivors [of a heat wave] differed [from those who died] in having

successfully kept cool" [82]; "The enemy of truth is untruth" [70]). Chapters are rambling. The text reads like table talk. The author oversimplifies. Her terms of analysis do not bear close inspection. She calls a community "a complex organism" (34), but this is a logical fallacy known as organicism. She personifies societies ("a society must be self-aware" [176]), and implies that a culture's progress can be rated or measured ("culture's trajectory pivoted upward" [102]). Jacobs is eager to pronounce cultures "winners" or "losers," as though history is some kind of Olympics. She overgeneralizes (the "purpose of life" [55-58]; the "scientific state of mind" [66-68]). She insists on representing abstractions spatially ("Interlocked problems, intractably spiralling downward and joining with other problems into amalgamated declines" [139]; "watch the vicious spirals go into action!" [160]). — There is no discussion of war or the military in Dark Age Ahead, except for a potted account of Rome's destruction of Carthage (191-93).]

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