Book Review: The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Fantasy and reality of life on the sidewalks
by Jane Jacobs
Review by Brian Wright

Death and Life of Great American CitiesThis exceptional book was highly touted by Ayn Rand’s coterie of intellectuals back in the day of The Objectivist Newsletter (early 1960s). Jane Jacobs came along in the same era—Death and Life of Great American Cities (Cities) was published in 1961—which was also the heyday of the Great Society programs, where good intentions and city planning could do no wrong.

Jacobs, a citizen-scholar of multiple subjects and a lifelong social activist for individuals and communities as they do and ought to live, devoted her life to truth above conventional practice or slavish obedience to authority. Cities is a tour de force of practical enlightenment: it’s like The Way Things Work about cities… not the way they are supposed to work. More than anything, Jane Jacobs is a people person, as are her cities: Continue reading