Facts about Jane Jacobs

1. Jacobs was born in Scranton, PA, but moved to NYC in 1932 and as early as 1935 she had published some of her impressions of the city in a multi-part series in Vogue magazine.  Earlier, she had written poetry for the Girl Scouts’s magazine, American Girl.

2. She published a 1941 book on the intellectual foundations of the American Constitution, with Columbia University Press under her maiden name Jane Butzner and the title Constitutional Chaff.  At about the same time her manuscript was being accepted, she was kicked out of Columbia for taking too many extended studies classes, and not allowed admission to Barnard.

3. In 1940 she wrote an article based on her study of the embossed acronyms on manhole covers.

4. She then worked as writer during WWII for the Office of War Information and the State Department.  Before Pearl Harbor, she had been an isolationist.

5. Henri Pirenne’s work on medieval cities was one of the biggest influences on her.

6. In the 1940s, she also worked for a metals industry magazine, and smoked a pipe in her office.  They started to wonder whether she was a troublemaker.

7. She married an architect in 1944, then taking the name Jacobs.  They enjoyed bicycling and sociometry together.  She had sons in 1948 and 1950.

8. Alger Hiss had been her superior at the State Department, and in the late 1940s Jacobs was investigated for possible Communist ties, in part because she had tried to apply for a visa to Siberia, using Hiss as her contact.  She stated in response that she abhorred communism and favored radical decentralization.

There is much more!  But that is a taste from the new and excellent Becoming Jane Jacobs, a runs-up-through 1972 biography by Peter L. Laurence, definitely one of the best books of the year.  This is the biography of Jacobs I have wanted to read for forty years.

Addendum: There is a new Jane Jacobs movie coming to the Toronto film festival.


Truly a singular individual whose contributions have been extremely influential. Her books will be read for many years to come.

Sarcasm? My take is that Jane Jacobs is the sort of average person that modern historians have been concentrating on in the past generation on explaining: the 'ordinary person'. Not a bad topic, but frankly not that illuminating, since the data is so sparse. For example, a decent book on this theme is "Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s" by : Sheila Fitzpatrick. (an Irish surname but she speaks and writes Russian? Hmmm, a language guru like madman scientist Nicola Tesla or maybe she changed her maiden name?)

Another trend of modern historians (besides revisionism, which is always going on) is to write a history on private thoughts or emotions, or trends like that. One such pioneer in this field was the late historian Peter Gay.

No offense but that is a remarkably limited view of Jacobs and her work. Jacobs is one of the key thinkers about urban life in the modern period. Perhaps the key thinker.

And of course Fitzgerald is a Norman name. Not just an Irish one.

Ah, I see, she was a counterweight to Moses, who's Caro biography I have partially read. Internet screen scrape: "In one corner is Jane Jacobs, bespectacled and slight of frame, but with a talent for community organizing and a fierce unwillingness to yield to the powers that be. At the other side of the ring is Robert Moses, the towering city planner, who swept away old neighborhoods".

OK then, of interest to New York and New Yorkers, I stand corrected.

No, she is the leading voice of conservatism in urban studies, where traditional, organically developed patterns of village and city life are what is being conserved. AFAIK she was not a political conservative but I am, and a lifelong student of urbanism, and she speaks for me.

Further evidence in favor of the theory of reincarnation?

It's no coincidence that urban planning (landscape architecture) went off the rails after WWII just as communist hysteria was reaching its peak: "urban renewal" was meant to destroy everything that wasn't considered "real America". No city was spared from the destruction, the labyrinth of highways, and urban sprawl. Today's political, economic, and ideological divide between coastal cities and everything in between is simply a contemporary version. Urban planning (landscape architecture) had its roots in America in the late 19th century and early 20th century at Harvard under the leadership of Frederick Law Olmsted. My great uncle studied under Olmsted and taught at Harvard before embarking a long career in urban planning and landscape architecture across America, his lasting contribution the most obvious in the beautiful gardens for which Sacramento is known. Those pioneers would be appalled by what was considered urban planning in the hysteria of post-WWII. Ms. Jacobs famously fought against the urban destruction in NYC and other places in the U.S. and Canada, and is credited with helping to save the urban life that so many enjoy today.

Very true in Little Rock, Arkansas (entire blocks rather fraudulently taken over by city government and given to blacks, some of which were on the planning commission, massive fraud)

I still never heard of Jane.

Perhaps you are unaware of any number of influential thinkers. What I don't understand is your eagerness to share that information.

"urban planning (landscape architecture) went off the rails after WWII just as communist hysteria was reaching its peak": do you mean anti-communist hysteria?

I suppose it depends on whether the hysteria was over communists or anti-communists. Cowen, who has posted favorable comments about Joe McCarthy, might agree that the hysteria was over the anti-communists, the loyal Americans who only wanted to expose the subversives, draining the urban swamp via "urban renewal" where they did their subversion as part of a larger strategy.

I know, Cowen's recent fondness for the anti-Russian Joe McCarthy may be Cowen's way of calling out the Russophile Trump - the anti-Russian party has become the Russian apologist party. For those of us who aren't gnostics, the Straussian preference for speaking in code can be confusing. I know it's passe, but I'm a Strunk and White guy.

It’s no coincidence that urban planning (landscape architecture) went off the rails after WWII just as communist hysteria was reaching its peak:

I think there's a logical fallacy incorporated in that sentence which might have an ancient proper name.

"Urban planning" implies a central authority making decisions that others must live by, for good, or usually, ill. Just as sane people reject the idea that central banks should be able to determine interest rates and that central government should determine trade policy, why should they accept megalomaniacs like Moses being able to foist their visions on the teeming masses?

The central authority is a body of municipal officials concerned with traffic flows, loads on public infrastructure, and externalities.

Also, interestingly, the original interstate designers had planned for them to be true inter-city highways and to avoid the dense urban areas. Mostly, it was the local powers that be that got involved and made sure the highways would destroy...'blighted'...neighborhoods. And not so blighted neighborhoods. All the better to help suburban developers.

Was she influenced by (reading) Hayek?

Doubt it. Her outlook was communitarian and she had only a cursory interest in economic questions. She's an unusual figure inasmuch as just about anyone can enjoy her and is pleased to claim her. Christopher Lasch's appeal is similarly broad.

I am unaware of any number of influential thinkers, Robbl. How about you? Got them all on speed dial? Arrogant a__. It seems to be an East Coast Intellectualism meme to post on a blog and assume that any 'worthwhile' readers know what you know. If they did, why bother posting? From Wikipedia"... it is in the realm of urban planning that she has had her most extensive impact. Her observations about the ways in which cities function revolutionized the urban planning profession and discredited many accepted planning models that dominated mid-century [city (re)development] planning. The influential Harvard Economist Edward Glaeser, known for his work on urban studies, acknowledged that Jane Jacobs (1960s) had been prescient in attacking [famous NYC urban planner] Moses for "replacing well-functioning neighborhoods with Le Corbusier-inspired towers." Glaeser agreed that these housing projects proved to be Moses' greatest failures, "Moses spent millions and evicted tens of thousands to create buildings that became centers of crime, poverty, and despair." " fwiw.

You seem to have it exactly backwards, though. Ray Lopez is repeatedly saying he doesn't know who Jane Jacobs is with a strong undercurrent of "...so why should anyone care?" The problem isn't the lack of familiarity, the problem is the proud lack of familiarity, as though any influential thinker with whom he is not familiar is not worth talking about. If I've never heard of someone being discussed here, I'm generally inclined to keep that to myself and try to learn something, rather than proudly declaring my ignorance of them and yet still feeling the need to offer comment anyway.

Ray Lopez trolled someone into defending him? HAHA. That is like the next level of trolling. Well done Ray. I know you live for this sort of thing.

So strange to come to the comment section here and catch a whiff of the cesspool that is the comment sections in so many places.

I came for what seems superficially to be a similar reason to some who have already commented: I'm fairly ignorant of Jane Jacobs.

My question: what's the best way to learn about this thread of thought in urban planning? Is it to read one of her books? To read this biography? In short, what is the seminal work at this point for someone who does not intend to make urban planning a huge area of study?

She was not a planner herself so her work does not resemble professional literature in planning. If you want to know what she thought, you have to read her books. If you want to gain insight into professional literature in planning, start with the monographs at your nearest university library. The planning literature is in the HT schedule. Footnotes in the books can lead you to other work, especially in journals. You might see if the library has bibliographies of planning literature. You might also try browsing Journal of the American Planning Association.

The Jane Jacobs book that everyone doing urban social science or urban planning is generally forced to read, and arguably the most important she wrote, is The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Interesting piece on Jane Jacobs and her influence: https://placesjournal.org/article/jane-jacobs-and-the-death-and-life-of-american-planning/

Janey is like 'Hayek lite', at least she said something that was interruptible, and showed a pathway,

by the way, i appreciate all you f's that have been participating here for, close to twenty years.













75mph, left-hand, fist, nice guy , , ,

what you weighed, where you were, what you said . . . 75mph talked 2u

the guy had read the books, . . ., recognized that electricity had just been found in this last century . . ,

was not proud, nor overly uppy about this circumstance

just keep in mind, that if things went off, you got snippy, could be coming at you, at 75 mph, whatever, f o's -- just the way it went with this mf'r

hungry, tired, freezing, when that semi came over the hill

lil cock sucking, pos, i was there, you weren't

i'm sorry son, this is far as it goes . . .

at that cold, lonely crossroads, the end of the line . . .

this rig be putting em all to shame . . .

u cock sucking, over educated, weenies, take this dime and get yourself a cup of mud in that diner up the hill

and watch these tail-lights, go off into the distance . . .

every now and then, when the moon seems 2b holding water

clean, out of sight, . . .

and when i talk 2u lil pampered, lil pos

we might make mention, of the phantom 309, and somebody came in here and mentioned something about something, 'bout something 'bout something and the phantom 309, and every\body else can go suck it . . .

cold lonely crossroads , , ,

out here on a lonely, lonely, crossroads . . .

i kinda got 2b makin' a turn up the road . . .

made quite a few miles on the first few days . . .

u lil' f o, nobody, s heads, . . .

pulling off into the night . . ,.

these crossroads get lonely sometimes . . ,.

every now and then, when the moon is holding water, . , ,

and i bitch slap everyone of you mf'r's . . .

and you rreconize that u r talking 2a big big . . ,.

and u r lucky 2b talking the tail-lighs of somebody, who is like, talking like u r never going2 understand . . ,.

late at night, the girls got their glowy on . . .

and a buck just chirps up . . .

the rain came pouring down, s, i was living in seatle , trying2 feel good about that

scary, b n around somebody who talks like this . . .

ask me if i give n s if u agree with that?

i m living in eden and you are trying to figure that out

i'll agree with you about whatever criticisms you have, but if u is still whining? i'l make you understand where you is at . . . 75 mph, in your face, from a little, humble guy . . .l

is ok, lil poopies, always thinking about your best interest.

said a big, big -- on a saturday night, . . .

sorry 2 b telling u this s, lil'p p shits . . .

@ 58, u know i graduated from HS @ 76, and the times were good

and then everything went 2shit

just about that time that an old semi caught the hill . . .

smoked up all his viceroys and then caught a hill with a diner off in the distance.

lil f face nobody s heads, my girl, yes, that waitress, was the cutest thing that ever came around the bend . . .

bar none, you lil face, nobody s heads . . .,

ask me if i give n s 'bout whatever you thoiught, thunk, dreamed about nothing -- yup, me and that girl were headed towards marriage.

and that's a dream, a dream i never could of thunk, the best damn good-looking waitress, with the finest, natural tits, that you could of ever dreamed of . . .,

and she married me :) that was special . . .

everything else is just washing dishes . . .

ya know, when we were young, we left a bar, late at night, and hitchhiked to colorado, late at nite. And mind you, i'm 160 lbs, in the NYGiants, after practice bar . . .

We got out onto the Saw Mill River Parkway, at 3:00 o'clock in the morning, she had 50 bucks and a blouse on . . . i had 5 dollars and a t-shirt on . . .

leaving Pleasantville, going nowhere . . .

what a special thing that girl left that tavern with me, hitching out west. everybody else can go f u . . .

walk out into the rain and put our thumbs out, pleasantville ny, headed to colorado.

everybody else can go f u, i don't care where you came from, me and this girl, i was just mad about, left a tavern in pleasantville, ny, out onto the sawmill parkway, hitchhiking to colorado, at 3:00am in the morning, and ten years later,she marries me . . .

and she was the best looking girl in that whole goddamned bar and keep in mind i was competing with LT, of NYGiants fame, all 160 lbs. of cutey-pie me, competing with the likes of MIghty Joe Young, and whatever the likes of a future super-bowl championship team.

and we got out onto the saw-miill parkway, in the rain, and hitchhiked to Iowa, at three o'clock in the morning. And we eventually got married 10 years later.


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