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Dark Age Ahead

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  1,028 ratings  ·  129 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
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 17th 2005 by Vintage (first published May 4th 2004)
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Jul 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is such an eye-opener, everyone should read it. We think how smart we are, how we live in an amazing place but something is fading, something is disappearing from our society and that can bring the downfall of our culture (as it has happened many times over the course of human history - I'm sure you have heard about developed cultures vanishing in the matter or decades and it wasn't natural catastrophy which killed them off). It's a very scary book given the fact it's non-fiction. ...more
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
Dale Kushner
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
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
Feb 05, 2015 rated it liked it
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
May 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Even though this was published 13 years ago, it was as prophetic AF. Just listen to this:

"Hospitals, transit systems, and orchestras are scorned [by far-right conservatives] as freeloaders seeking handouts if they can’t directly pay their way or, better yet, make a profit either for tax collectors or for a corporate partner. Greed becomes culturally admired as competence, and false or unrealistic promises as cleverness."[Italics mine]

Did she see what was coming or what?! Highly recommended.

Feb 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Hey remember Razzles? they were gum and candy at the same time. That shit was awesome.
Oct 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: planning geeks, social historians, nerds, Americans, people
Shelves: nerdshelf
we are simultaneously fundamentally regenerative and totally fucked.
Gordon Howard
Jan 14, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Mark Valentine
Mar 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Published during the nadir of the Bush Regime (2004), the title may seem biased. But Jacobs' cautionary book offers some keen perceptions. She warns against mass amnesia and having a culture that cannot generate "human ingenuity, knowledge and skills," that is, homogeneity and conformity. With the digital means at hand, our culture (the West, anyway) might err toward forgetfulness.

I was particularly impressed by the accuracy of one prediction she made. She predicted the bubble of the housing an
May 22, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Sep 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
I don't think that the late Jane Jacobs thought her book through very thoroughly. She only based her analysis on the places she lived in Canada and the U.S. and I can't agree with her five pillars that are the cause of the downfall of society. ...more
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a decidedly minor book, notable mostly because of the severity of Jacobs' prediction. Applying her keen eye for city life to the early 21st century, Jacobs became convinced that she was witnessing a culture in collapse. She then went about gathering data to support this thesis, but it's not exactly a bulletproof thesis, and some of it will be familiar to readers who already possess similarly critical views. Still, a very serious thesis, and worth a look. ...more
Aug 16, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Jan 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
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
Dec 04, 2009 rated it liked it
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 will ...more
Dec 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: urbanism
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
Jul 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 06, 2009 rated it liked it
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
May 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
I found reading Jane Jacobs a great joy. Her style and prose are analytical and enjoyable to follow. Dark Age Ahead postulates that North American culture, and many others across the world, as in the process of losing knowledge and traditions that are at their core. "Mass Amnesia" will result and North Americans will forget this knowledge that was the pith of their culture.

These ideas are fascinating and enjoyable to think about, however, this book is simply a rant. Her five chapters that highl
Carl Gladish
Jan 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
I was surprised at how poor a book this is, compared to Jacobs' vastly influential Death and Life of Great American Cities.

The chapter titles are grand and full of promise: "Families Rigged to Fail", "Credentialing Versus Educating", "Science Abandoned", "Dumbed-Down Taxes", "Self-Policing Subverted", "Unwinding Vicious Spirals", "Dark Age Patterns". But each chapter nose-dives into some specific pet topic or other. The Science chapter ends up talking about how bad a science traffic engineering
Will Byrnes
Oct 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Oct 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Varapanyo Bhikkhu
Jan 28, 2021 rated it it was ok

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-
Ross Perlin
Nov 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: urban-planning, 2014
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
Nov 05, 2016 rated it liked it
I was worried that this book would feel too scarily correct about our current situation. But I think it made me appreciate how hard it is to predict the future. Either way, it was a good distillation of some of the current problems facing Western societies and why it would behoove us to actually do something about them. Though what is scary is how hard it is to imagine that happening. And certainly it seems unlikely that there will be large scale agreement with how Jacobs would choose to tackle ...more
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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

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“Not TV or illegal drugs but the automobile has been the chief destroyer of American communities.” 45 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.” 11 likes
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