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Missing the Point

969 words

Jane Jacobs
Dark Age Ahead
New York: Random House (2004)

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) is best known as the author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) and as the chief adversary of the soul-destroying activities of Robert Moses, the architect of New York City’s infamous “urban renewal” projects of the mid-twentieth century. Jacobs’ books and articles (and political activism) on architecture and city planning provided much of the intellectual underpinnings to the shift in city planning from urban renewal, slum clearance, and low-density suburbanization to gentrification and mixed-use high-density reurbanizaton.

Dark Age Ahead (2004) was her final book, and in it she posits that American (and Canadian) civilization is engaged in a death spiral not unlike that earlier seen in the Roman Empire. According to Jacobs, the reasons for this decline are the results of five causes:

  1. The decline of stable nuclear families (which leads to a decline in the establishment of communities)
  2. The transmogrification of institutions of higher education into credentialing agencies
  3. The abandonment of science
  4. The abandonment of the concept of subsidiarity, and the usurpation of the functions of local government by federal authorities
  5. The failure of the various professions to police their own activities

Although the book was written just a little over 15 years ago, it might as well have been written in the 1950s. All of Jacobs’ five causes for American societal decline are spot on, but she fails to follow her thinking to its logical conclusion. Looming behind all of these indicators of American decline is the corrupting influence of the Negro. Gentrification could work to revitalize cities, but the presence of feral Negroes in urban settings makes this a daunting proposition. Even if a gentrification project is successful, it most likely abuts a Negro district that brings with it all of the pathologies associated with negritude. And with the abandonment by Leftist mayors of the centers of American cities to lawless hordes of Negroes and their Antifa handlers, it is unlikely that mixed-use high-density gentrification will continue to be a force in urban development. Indeed, the twin blows of COVID-19 and BLM have made suburbanization and low-density development more attractive than ever.

Likewise, mass transportation can work in an all-white or all-Asian city, but it becomes dysfunctional and dangerous with the presence of Negroes. Compare the public transportation system of Tokyo with San Francisco/Oakland’s BART system or the MARTA system of Atlanta and it becomes quickly apparent why Americans are wedded to their automobiles. The personal automobile is the greatest Negro avoidance system ever developed by man.

The decline of American higher education has many causes: corrupt administrators, the radicalization of the professoriat that began with Vietnam War draft dodgers gaining control of universities in the 1960s, and declining academic standards resulting from the need to keep enrollment numbers up in a rapidly contracting pool of candidates, a decline in standards that has been exacerbated by affirmative action policies for low IQ Negroes. The decline in educational standards is not entirely the fault of the universities, and this is a point that is not mentioned by Jacobs. How can American higher education succeed when the students matriculating into its institutions are so woefully unprepared and/or oftentimes have such limited cognitive abilities that higher learning is simply beyond their intellectual level? Jacobs’ lament for the loss of the life of the mind as a raison d’être for attending university seems almost quaint today, like something out of a novel by Evelyn Waugh or Anthony Powell.

When Jacobs remarks about the present-day abandonment of science as a cause of societal decline, she deals mostly with examples taken from traffic engineering, a profession that she claims is based upon ideological dogma rather than scientifically based research and statistical analysis. For instance, Jacobs may be entirely correct when she says that the bias of traffic engineers against multi-modal boulevards may have no basis in scientific fact. She overlooks — or more likely, cannot bring herself to admit — that the bias against pedestrians and public transportation in favor of limited access highways is so that people in the safety of their private automobiles can travel through an urban environment while avoiding the predations of the Negro and the filth and illicit drug-taking of the homeless and the insane.

While there is much to admire in Jane Jacobs’ writing about urban planning, it is utopian in nature and consistently misses the point. No well-thought-out urban planning can change the character of the Negro. Placing Negroes in suburban schools has not made Negroes more intelligent. Allowing Negroes to stroll down the boulevards of London or Paris has not turned Negroes into English gentlemen or French intellectuals. While the curse of diversity has probably doomed America to a fate similar to that of Rome, Jacobs demonstrates — but takes care not to speak explicitly — that the success of Japan is due to its lack of diversity. After Commodore Perry’s 1853 forced opening of Japan to the West:

It [Japan] continued protecting itself even while it was catching up to the West and in the process transforming itself from an agrarian culture to an ingenuity-based, postagrarian society. Throughout the transformation, the society took immense care to cherish and nurture its own familiar cultural characteristics. (p. 171)

Japan is succeeding because of its monoculture; America is dying because of its multiculturalism. It is unfortunate that the normally perspicacious Jane Jacobs, in her final publication, could not utter this truth.

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8 Comments

  1. Bernie
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Very interesting. Does the writer feel Jacobs “knew the score” on race but just couldnt say it out loud?

    Also, is Jacobs Jewish? Many smart Jews of her generation turned to conservatism (more accurately, neo-conservatism) because of their experiences with blacks.

    • Quintilian
      Posted July 14, 2020 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Jacobs (maiden name: Butzner) was a Protestant. There is no indication that she was one of us. I think that she just bought into the melting pot myth.

  2. HamburgerToday
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Quintillian’s complaint seems to be that Jacobs didn’t write the book she should have written. That’s a ridiculous standard of judgment. ‘Date Age Ahead’ is a good book. It gives an account of what is going wrong in a very compact package. I got value from the book when I first read it and have had occasion to refer others to the book over time.

    Jacobs isn’t going to address race as a factor because (a) she never did and (b) doing so would have assured the book was never published.

    Quintillian is right that the underlying phenomenon that connects all of the various pathologies Jacobs describes can be traced back to multi-racialism and ‘civil rights’ and the corrosive effect this has had on the people — the White people — who created the institutions and conditions she critiqued.

    • Quintilian
      Posted July 14, 2020 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Jacobs’ book is idiosyncratic and incomplete. Her five reasons for the decline of Western Civilization barely scratch the surface. Her book is ultimately a failure since she does not address the underlying causes for the West’s decline. It’s like saying crime is a problem but refusing to say who is committing the vast majority of the crimes, or saying that America’s large cities are in shambles because of Democrat mayors. Her sins of omission are unforgivable.

      • Stronza
        Posted July 14, 2020 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

        I agree with you. I remember when she was endlessly lionized, but she never said anything remotely controversial.

  3. Ian Smith
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    She still deserves credit for taking on (((Robert Moses))).

  4. baltika
    Posted July 14, 2020 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    “Compare the public transportation system of Tokyo with San Francisco/Oakland’s BART system or the MARTA system of Atlanta and it becomes quickly apparent why Americans are wedded to their automobiles.”

    U.S. cites that are white-heavy and have few blacks sometimes have little or no mass transit: Seattle, Indianapolis, Columbus. It’s true enough that more-white Boston has a better, cleaner transit system than less-white Philadelphia. But I don’t think Americans’ car-focus is simply about desire to avoid blacks.

  5. Posted July 14, 2020 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Remove every foreign element in the West and it would still embark on the process of decay because of the character of economic development embarked on by the Wets since the Reformation. Blacks are not the the CAUSE of anything: zilch. They have been manipulated by economic interests, which are not synonymous with ‘Jews’ and do not have any higher motivation than crass greed. Unfortunately, Jacobs book is not known to me, but it seems like it is of the type that could be profitably read alongside Spengler and Brooks Adams, and Carlyle’s ‘Past and Present’.

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