dJane Jacobs Celebrating The City Street - Road to the Middle Class - by Christopher Chantrill
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Jane Jacobs: Celebrating the City Street

by Christopher Chantrill
April 27, 2006 at 11:42 am

JANE JACOBS was a writer celebrated both by liberals and conservatives. She died April 25 in Toronto, aged 89. In her celebrated Death and Life of Great American Cities she punctured the confident movement of urban renewal that was bulldozing entire urban neighborhoods to cure “urban blight.” Liberals liked her because she bashed the rich. Conservatives liked her because she championed the old and the traditional.

She also belonged to that extraordinary time around 1960 when a clutch of major non-fiction books were published to universal reception: “Death and Life of American Cities,” “Silent Spring,” “The Other America,” “The Feminine Mystique,” “Growing Up Absurd,” “The Affluent Society,” and “Unsafe at Any Speed.”

In the New York Times Douglas Martin speaks of her four recommendations for city environment:

"Death and Life" made four basic recommendations for creating municipal diversity: 1. A street or district must serve several primary functions. 2. Blocks must be short. 3. Buildings must vary in age, condition and use. 4. Population must be dense.

In NRO conservative G. Tracy Mehan claims Jacobs for conservatives.

Flourishing city diversity, of the kind that is catalyzed by the combination of mixed primary uses, frequent streets, mixture of building ages and overheads, and dense concentration of users, does not carry with it the disadvantages of diversity conventionally assumed by planning pseudoscience.

Mehan claims Jacobs as a Burkean. But you could also categorize her as a rebellious libertarian.

"City air still makes free the runaways from company towns, from plantations, from factory-farms, from subsistence farms, from migrant picker routes, from mining villages, from one-class suburbs," wrote Jacobs.

We can hardly say that she succeeded in stopping the elite passion for remaking cities in its own highly educated and highly evolved image. “Urban Renewal” was replaced by “New Urbanism” and now “Smart Growth.” The theme is constant—bulldozing people around to suit the aesthetic preferences of the educated elite.

But there is a curious contradiction in Jacobs’ womanly celebration of the vibrant city. The single-purpose suburb, against which she rails, was created by women. They wanted to get away from the danger and the bustle of the city so they could raise their families in peace and quiet.

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Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.  His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.


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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures


German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Knowledge

Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Action

The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


Churches

[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital


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©2007 Christopher Chantrill