Jane Jacobs' Legacies

Urban historian Christopher Klemek discusses the significance of Jane Jacobs' writings and activism.
April 28, 2006, 5am PDT | David Gest
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"Q. How do you believe Jane Jacobs will be remembered decades from now?

A. First, and most obviously, she was a critic of urban renewal, and really of urbanism, generally, in the mid-20th century. She was a critic of all the established trends in architecture, planning, zoning.

Second, she has a significance that is less well appreciated. This is something that can be seen in the whole body of her work, beginning with The Death and Life. And that is Jacobs as an economist-slash-sociologist-slash-philosopher of cities and also, by extension, of contemporary civic life. She was profoundly interested in how communities work. Cities were interesting to her because of the way that they take advantage of the best human attributes and simultaneously compensate for human shortcomings.

And in this area -- Jacobs as philosopher of community life -- she attacked shibboleths in a whole range of disciplines. And she often came to influence ideas in those fields very profoundly. Figures like Saskia Sassen in sociology, Robert Lucas in economics, Kenneth Jackson in history, will all testify that they were deeply influenced by her work."

Thanks to Melissa Keeley

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Published on Thursday, April 27, 2006 in The Chronicle of Higher Education
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