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Dark Age Ahead

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  529 ratings  ·  61 reviews
In this indispensable book, urban visionary Jane Jacobs--renowned author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Economy of Cities--convincingly argues that as agrarianism gives way to a technology-based future, we stand on the brink of a new dark age, a period of cultural collapse. Jacobs pinpoints five pillars of our culture that are in serious decay: comm ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Vintage (first published May 4th 2004)
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rebekah
Jul 19, 2007 rebekah rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jane Jacobs fans, concernced citizens
I tried to start this book last year, after her funeral. Jane was my Great Aunt. But I couldn't bring myself to turn the pages after she died. I don't know why, I am sure she is pleased that people will read her books and she can live on through the written page, ideas that matter...but it just made me sad...So a year later I picked it up again and had a good read. I really enjoyed it on a personal level mentions of my grandfather and cousins...and to hear her voice once more, besides the ghost ...more
Gordon Howard
A short, perhaps lazy last book from Jane Jacobs, author of the far better The Death and Life of Great American Cities back in 1961. While she makes some good points, her picks of items that will lead to a decline of civilization include some idiosyncratic choices, choices that I don't think she makes a good case for, such as "Credentialing vs. Educating," (bemoaning the fact that education is no longer general and lacking in practicality in obtaining employment) "Self-policing subverted," (she ...more
Kevin
Aug 19, 2007 Kevin rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people like me
I had mixed feelings: Jacobs wrote this book not long before her death, and at times it has the feel of an incoherent, rambling old person. Other times, she makes astute cultural and political analyses, particularly about Canada. Jacobs is an American who lived the better part of her adult life in Canada, so she has ample knowledge of politics, urban life, and cultural on both sides of the border, and she is a respected urban critic/theorist by both Americans and Canadians. In this book, her int ...more
Mindy
I was sadly disapppointed- the first few chapters are promising but the bulk of her argument is disjointed logic and barely relatable personal experiences. She makes definative statements that are barely backed upa nd if so, not properly. Her opinions are stated as fact and weak interpretations are used to combat stronger logic. If you know nothing about civic development and like someone who's most interesting writing is when she' reguritating another authors research, you may like this book. B ...more
Jeff
The title may leave prospective readers with the impression that Jacobs espoused a rather pessimistic view of our urban future but as she points out in the text, the book actually outlines a number of thought-provoking and entirely practical approaches that could be adopted in the planning of our urban spaces to improve our quality of life without risking some sort of economic catastrophe or vastly increased costs of living. The influence of the late Jacobs' thinking on urban planning continues ...more
Dale Kushner
Jane Jacob’s brilliantly prophetic book Dark Age Ahead was published posthumously in 2004 and forecasts the cultural collapse the United States now is experiencing. Jacobs uses historical precedent to show how the decline of previously flourishing cultures had certain traits in common and that these traits, including Mesopotamia and 15th c China, are now apparent in our own time. But Jacobs does not present a hopeless case, and offers a list of powerful corrective actions to combat economic and ...more
Peter Brimacombe
this book has sat on a shelf at work for many years. I retired and took it home to write a review and then give it away.

Chapter 3 Credentialing Versus Education:
"My father, a doctor, worked long hours, seven days a week, and in spite of weariness he stayed in good spirits because he was needed and, especially, because his work interested him. But, like everyone else, he worried about getting by. In our little city, where the chief industry was mining expensive high-grade anthracite coal, the Gre
...more
Tim Weakley
The society that forgets it's errors is doomed to repeat them. This seems to be the central message in this book. I don't disagree, but the author stretches her arguments from time to time. She also indulges in a lot of referencing of her own previous work as source.

I still enjoyed reading this one, and I would suggest that readers of her other works add this one to their Read shelf as well.
Bruce
In her last book, the articulate ur-urbanist manages to be both prophetic about America's present and hopeful about America's future. She describes five signs of crisis as our culture enters the post-industrial era, which must be addressed to prevent slipping into a "dark age" like the prehistoric hunter-gatherers, ancient Romans, or modern farm belts. (Declaring ourselves "exceptional" is not a good sign of self-awareness. They probably did, too.) But history has several examples of several ada ...more
Markus
Hey remember Razzles? they were gum and candy at the same time. That shit was awesome.
Megan
Oct 12, 2007 Megan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: planning geeks, social historians, nerds, Americans, people
Shelves: nerdshelf
we are simultaneously fundamentally regenerative and totally fucked.
Michael
This is the kind of book I like: insightful, enjoyable prose and not too long.

In the West we tend to look at the Dark Age as the period of time between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance, yet innumerable cultures and civilizations have declined and lost self-knowledge. "During a Dark Age, the mass amnesia of survivors becomes permanent and profound. The previous way of life slides into an abyss of forgetfulness, almost as decisively as it had not existed." The author goes on to cite a number o
...more
Joel
Due to my current borderline obsession with social collapse, I was intrigued when I saw this recommended on the Multnomah County Library's website. So I placed a hold and received a copy not long after and got to reading.

I liked it. Hence the three stars. I didn't quite love it. Not because of any lack of good information and ideas or a lack of quality writing, but more because I wanted it to be a little more riled up. A bit more emotional. It was very straightforward and even, which is perfectl
...more
Nancy
I appreciated the passages in which I got macro-views of civilization, when Jacobs brought her rich life of studying cities and culture to bear on the problems of our disintegration. I appreciate, too, the conciseness of her argument, which sometimes left me wanting the kernel of her thought to bloom -- such as when she gave a small poke at Wendell Berry's romantic torch for agrarian life. He looks foolish, not understanding agrarianism in its wider context, as the thing that usurped foraging, a ...more
Donna
I was distinctly underwhelmed by the contents of this book. Jacobs argues that the culture of North America is disappearing. The reasons? Disintegration of the family, deteriorating quality of higher education, poor science used unquestioningly, and more. The book is worth a read, because she raises some valid points combined with interesting commentary and there are even a couple of moments that make you go “Hmmmm…..” However, her conclusion that the end of North American culture is nigh is, in ...more
Henry
Now here's one that I'm not sure what star rating to give. I settled on three, because I'm attempting to do something, I believe Jacobs herself would have wanted me to do. That is, be scientific about it. However, with my limited science skills, I figure I'll just try to be objective.
There's a lot here that's good. Or, at least a lot of good ideas that germinate here. The five pillars of society she claims are in danger are family, science, higher education, taxes and skilled professions. OK,
...more
Matthew
Though not as interesting or compelling as Systems of Survival, Dark Age Ahead is a well thought out warning of impending loss of civilization. Jacobs, who has a knack for showing familiar concepts in interesting new ways, argues that we must shore up the five pillars of N. American (and Western) civilization: Community & the family; education; science; tax and government accountability and responsiveness to citizens; and the self-regulation of professions. She argues that if we do not, we w ...more
Brendan
Tough call between 3 and 4 stars...Jacobs is one of the most important thinkers of the past century, hands down...but she has a propensity for rambling on. Dark Age Ahead is insightful and eerily prescient, with its foreseeing of the current recession. Jacobs frames the current conflict in the first few chapters of the book; perhaps this is the reason I found them so much more engrossing than most of the second half, which dries out around the sixth and seventh chapters, fortunately picking up f ...more
Will Byrnes
Jacobs contends that we are heading for a new dark age and cites reasons in several categories. One is that we are tending away from rationality. See Creation science. She also cites examples in which research poorly thought out is relied on for policy decision-making, which is a far cry from the blatant anti-scientific bent of the fundamentalists. In this area her argument is soft. She also cites an unwillingness to learn from the past, and even to destroy memory of the past, actively or passiv ...more
Doug
I read this right after Ishmael so the dire tone carried right into this book. Since the US government is in its second week of shutdown and only a few days from defaulting on its debt, it's hard to call this book alarmist. It does really seem like fundamental flaws are dragging America down. Moreover, the shortage of tenable solutions and the lack of political will to execute them seem to point to a downward spiral to a dark age. Some of the points Jacobs made really resonated. I've always wond ...more
Greg
This is basically a book of rants that are loosely tied to the premise that western culture is showing signs of cracking and heading into a cultural, political, technological dark age. Even though much of the discussion doesn't support the premise very well, Jacobs still makes some good points. Her rants about suburban sprawl and traffic engineering, among others, were good. I also like to read through her well-explained thought processes on different topics, even if they aren't supported very w ...more
Ross Perlin
This last manifesto before the urbanist’s death was geared towards a popular audience and took its (weak) intellectual underpinning from others (Diamond, Kuhn etc.). The basic point—that Western culture risks entering a dark age by not passing on and valuing the best in our own culture—got at something or other but was never a really convincing proposition. On the other hand, the book still contained valuable observations, especially about how we organize our land and our space. Among the most i ...more
Shawn
The rise of "credentialism" is perhaps the most prescient view of Jacobs' book. With college grads taking menial jobs and more and more teenagers giving up hope in the value of even going to college, the value of a degree is certainly in question. Perhaps this is why tech companies insist on their own testing standards (Microsoft and Cisco certificate programs for example) because they feel colleges are not preparing students to use the tools of the trade. I always tell college bound kids that a ...more
Chris Stratton
Oct 01, 2007 Chris Stratton rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want an extended preface to Jared Diamond's "Collapse"
I feel bad about giving a Jane Jacobs book such a low rating, but this one was not very good. She rambles a lot. There are a few insightful bits about economics methodology and urban policy in Toronto. She spends a good part of the book saying how brilliant Jared Diamond is -- you get the sense that she wanted to take on the grand project that he did in "Collapse", but just didn't have enough time. This was her last book. I say just read "Collapse" and stick to Jacob's other [wonderful] work, un ...more
Ronald
I've heard that Ms. Jacob's "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" is an excellent book. Maybe, but "Dark Age Ahead" is best skipped. There are nuggets of wisdom to be found, but as a whole it comes across more as a left-wing rant about "commercialism" than a thoughtful consideration of cultural decline and death. Excluding the Notes section, it's only 176 pages in length. Your reading time on books about cultural decline and death would best be spent elsewhere, perhaps with "We Are Doome ...more
Robyn
Uneven and a bit disjointed but a very interesting reread ten years later.
S
Sep 11, 2007 S rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pessimists, intense jane jacobs fans who can bear some measure of disappointment
We all love Jane, but this is definitely an end of the road book. It's somewhat tragic that the way she built up from Death and Life... to analyzing urban economies and then broaders ones led her to interesting results that she somehow mangled.

But just becacuse it's her last work and the broadest in scope, that doesn't mean she needed some kind of culmination--her other works stand on their own just fine thank you.
Dirk
Nice book by Jane Jacobs. The beginning of the book stand out for me as it makes a case for why practice is important. The remainder of the book explicates current developments that undermine the communities. I am not sure we are approaching the Dark Ages but I guess that either the publisher had a say in that bit of the book or Professor Jacobs wanted to create some noise with her last book. Well worth the read.
Sean
Writing with breadth and depth, wit and lucidity, Jacobs explores the cultural damage done by the religious worship of economics and efficiency and management planning based on theory instead of evidence. Culture doesn't preserve itself and a people who neglect their culture will lose it. Written before both Stephen Harper and Rob Ford, the perils she addresses have only become more entrenched.
CynthiaA
Jacobs has such an astute mind, and such an accessible way of presenting complicated concepts. Published in 2004, the book is a wee bit dated, but Jacobs' prescience is surprising. She died in 2006, which saddens me, as I would love to here her thoughts about the financial fiascos of the last few years. I'm sure she'd have much to say about that.
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Jane Jacobs, OC, O.Ont (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006) was an American-born Canadian writer and activist with primary interest in communities and urban planning and decay. She is best known for The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), a powerful critique of the urban renewal policies of the 1950s in the United States. The book has been credited with reaching beyond planning issues to inf ...more
More about Jane Jacobs...
The Death and Life of Great American Cities The Economy of Cities Cities and the Wealth of Nations The Nature of Economies Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics

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“Not TV or illegal drugs but the automobile has been the chief destroyer of American communities.” 22 likes
“Two parents, to say nothing of one, cannot possibly satisfy all the needs of a family-household. A community is needed as well, for raising children, and also to keep adults reasonably sane and cheerful. A community is a complex organism with complicated resources that grow gradually and organically.” 0 likes
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