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Jane Jacobs

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Jane Butzner Jacobs (born 1916) is a writer, activist, and city aficionado. She was born in the coal mining town of Scranton, PA and now lives in Toronto Ontario. In 1944 she was married to Robert Hyde Jacobs. She has two sons, James Kedzie, born 1948 and Edward Decker, born 1950.

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Brief Biography

Jane Jacobs completed high school in 1933. She then went on to study at Columbia in the School of General Studies for two years. She took courses in geology, zoology, law, political science, and economics. 3For the first time I liked school and for the first time I made good marks. This was almost my undoing because after I had garnered, statistically, a certain number of credits I became the property of Barnard College at Columbia, and once I was the property of Barnard I had to take, it seemed, what Barnard wanted me to take, not what I wanted to learn. Fortunately my high school marks had been so bad that Barnard decided I could not belong to it and I was therefore allowed to continue getting an education.(Ideas that Matter: the Worlds of Jane Jacobs)

Her first job was for a trade magazine first as a secretary, then as an editor. She also sold articles to the Sunday Herald Tribune. She then became a feature writer for the Office of War Information.

On March 25 1952 Jane Jacobs responded to Mr. Conrad E. Snow, Chairman Loyalty Security Board, Department of State (see House Un-American Activities Committee)In her forward to her answer she stated:

"... The other threat to the security of our tradition, I believe, lies at home. It is the current fear of radical ideas and of people who propound them. I do not agree with the extremists of either the left or the right, but I think they should be allowed to speak and to publish, both because they themselves have, and ought to have, rights, and once their rights are gone, the rights of the rest of us are hardly safe..." (source Ideas that Matter: The Worlds of Jane Jacobs page 170 published by The Ginger Press, Inc. Edited by Max Allen)

Blocking expressways, and supporting neighbourhoods seems to be a common theme in her life. In 1962 she was chairman of the Joint Committee to Stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway, when the downtown expressway plan was killed. She was again involved in stopping the Lower Manhattan Expressway, and was arrested during a demonstration on April 10, 1968. This campaign is usually considered to be a turning point in the history of New York City - Jacobs opposed the powerful Robert Moses[?] who had already forced through the Cross-Bronx Expressway and other motorways against neighborhood opposition. As a sign of its importance, a PBS documentary series on New York's history devoted a full hour of its four-hour length strictly to the battle between Moses and Jacobs.

In 1969 she had moved to Toronto (Ontario, Canada), and was involved in stopping the Spadina Expressway. A common theme of her work has been to question whether we are building cities for people or for cars. She has been arrested twice during demonstrations. (source Ideas that Matter: The Worlds of Jane Jacobs). An important recent activity of Jacobs' is the strong advocacy of a Province of Toronto to separate the city proper from Ontario. Citing Jacobs herself, 'cities to thrive in the 21st century, must separate themselves politically from their surrounding areas'. Rejecting a compromise plan for a 'Toronto Charter' in 2000, Jacobs said, 'I don't care to fight for what's not worth having'. She remains an outspoken and treasured advocate for Toronto:

In 1997 the City of Toronto sponsored a conference titled Jane Jacobs: Ideas That Matter, and lead to a book by the same name. At the end of the conference, The Jane Jacobs Prize was created. It is Avana Capital Corporation and includes an annual stipend of $5,000 for three years to be given to 3celebrate Toronto's original, unsung heroes - by seeking out citizens who are engaged in activities that contribute to the city's vitality. (source http://ideasthatmatter.com/people/jj-prize)

List of Books and ideas on how cities work

Jane Jacobs has spent her life studying cities. Her process has been observational. She looks at cities, then reports on what she sees, and creats theories to describe what was observed. Each of her books further examines the ways in which cities operate. She starts off with insites into Urban Planning[?], moving into Economics, then into the Morality of Work. Her last book deals with what is economy.

Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)

The Economy of Cities (1969)

The Question of Separation (1980)

Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1984)

Systems of Survival (1992) 236 pages, paperback Vintage Press

Systems of Survival moves outside of the city, studying the moral underpinnings of work. As with her other work she used an observational approach. This book is written as a platonic dialogue[?]. It appears that she (as described by characters in her book) took newspaper clippings of moral judgements related to work, collected and sorted them to find that they fit two patterns of moral behaviour that were mutually exclusive. She calls these two patterns "Moral Syndrome A", or commercial moral syndrome and "Moral Syndrome B" or guardian moral syndrome. She claims that the commercial moral syndrome is applicable to business owners, scientists, farmers, and traders. Similarly, she claims that the guardian moral syndrome" is applicable to government, charities, hunter-gatherers, and religious institutions. She also claims that these Moral Syndromes are fixed, and do not fluctuate over time.

It is important to stress that Jane Jacobs is providing a theory about the morality of work, and not all moral ideas. Moral ideas that are not included in her syndrome are applicable to both syndromes.

From her book, Systems of Survival page ???? (actual source "Echo Books" (http://www.serve.com/ecobooks/systems.htm))

Shun force
Come to voluntary agreements
Be honest
Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens
Respect contracts
Use initiative and enterprise
Be open to inventiveness and novelty
Be efficient
Promote comfort and convenience
Dissent for the sake of the task
Invest for productive purposes
Be industrious
Be thrifty
Be optimistic

Shun trading
Exert prowess
Be obedient and discplined
Adhere to tradition
Respect hierarchy
Be loyal
Take vengeance
Deceive for the sake of the task
Make rich use of leisure
Be ostentatious
Dispense largesse
Be exclusive
Show fortitude
Be fatalistic
Treasure honor

Jane Jacobs goes on to describe what happens when these two moral syndromes are mixed, showing the work underpinnings of the Mafia and Communism, and what happens when New York Subway Police are paid bonuses for each arrest they make.

The Nature of Economies (2000)

Criticism of Jane Jacobs

One of the recurring criticisms of Jacobs is that her work is somehow 'impractical' and does not reflect the 'reality' of urban politics, which are often totally controlled by real estate developers and suburban politicians. A response to such critics is to point to the history of cities like New York City and Detroit, which were devastated in the 1960s and 1970s as suburban populations grew, took control of the politics of the surrounding region, and voted to starve cities to feed suburban sprawl, leaving burned-out city cores in deep debt. This fed the 'vicious cycle' of more departures to the suburbs.

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