The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Jane Jacobs
$12
  • The Death and Life of Great American Cities
  • The Death and Life of Great American Cities
used book

A beautifully soft copy of the classic work on urban sociology originally published in 1961. This book is by no means out-of-print, and you can probably find a new copy of it at your local bookstore, but we feel Jane would've wanted you to read it used; like a well-worn subway seat, let this copy carry you where others have gone before, into a world of stories of New York City neighborhoods, urban policy and civic life.

Jacobs was a critic of "rationalist" planners of the 1950s and 1960s, especially Robert Moses, as well as the earlier work of Le Corbusier. She argued that modernist urban planning overlooked and oversimplified the complexity of human lives in diverse communities. She opposed large-scale urban renewal programs that affected entire neighborhoods and built freeways through inner cities. She instead advocated for dense mixed-use development and walkable streets, with the "eyes on the street" of passers-by helping to maintain public order.

Jacobs ultimately defines neighborhood quality as a function of how well it can govern and protect itself over time, employing a combination of residential cooperation, political clout, and financial vitality. Jacobs recommends four pillars of effective city neighborhood planning:

  • To foster lively and interesting streets
  • To make the fabric of the streets as continuous a network as possible throughout a district of potential subcity size and power.
  • To use parks, squares, and public buildings as part of the street fabric, intensifying the fabric's complexity and multiple uses rather than segregating different uses
  • To foster a functional identity at the district level

Since the book was published, Jacobs has been criticized by modern sociologists and urbanists for a too-white, bourgeois view of the city, as characterized by her case study of Greenwich Village. We've come a long way since 1961, but Jacob's urban impressions still hold water as a foundation for the shaping of urban policy in the late 20th century.

– 458 pages
– Softcover
– Good condition
– 5.23 x 8 inches