Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Jane Jacobs Profile

Intersting little piece on Jane Jacobs in the New York Times, on the occasion of the release of her new book, "Dark Age Ahead." It could be interesting, especially since:
As its title so bleakly suggests, it sounds a litany of warnings about Western society, which she sees as tilting toward a steep decline, or at least a critical reckoning.

"The purpose of this book is to help our culture avoid sliding into a dead end," she writes at the start of the compact, 241-page work. At the end, she concludes, "Formerly vigorous cultures typically fall prey to the arrogant self-deception for which the Greeks had a word, 'hubris.' "

In reaching her gloomy conclusions, Ms. Jacobs barely skims over such possibilities of calamity as terrorism, nuclear war and environmental degradation. Rather, she calls those mere symptoms of what she views as more fundamental, less obvious ailments: the breakdown of the family, the decline of higher education, lapses of modern science, tax systems that do not distribute money fairly and the inadequate self-regulation of professions. These, for her, are signs that the very pillars that support society are rotting.

She says it is natural for societies to "make mistakes and get off balance," but then they correct themselves. "What seems different about this situation is the stabilizers themselves are in trouble," she said one recent afternoon. "If the stabilizers go, what do we depend on?"

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