The Economy of Cities

The Economy of Cities

Book - 1970
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In this book, Jane Jacobs, building on the work of her debut, The Death and Life of Great American Cities , investigates the delicate way cities balance the interplay between the domestic production of goods and the ever-changing tide of imports. Using case studies of developing cities in the ancient, pre-agricultural world, and contemporary cities on the decline, like the financially irresponsible New York City of the mid-sixties, Jacobs identifies the main drivers of urban prosperity and growth, often via counterintuitive and revelatory lessons.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, [1970], c1969
ISBN: 9780394705842
039470584X
Branch Call Number: 338/.09/1732/Jac
Characteristics: 268 p. : ill

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m
mikemarotta
Dec 31, 2017

It is an easy claim commonly found in school books that cities evolved from agrarian communities that themselves were formed when pastoralists pursuing herds narrowed their ranges, domesticated animals and plants, and settled down. In truth, cities evolved from the camps of successful hunter/gatherers who met to exchange their supluses. Jane Jacobs suggested this in The Economy of Cities. Her theory was validated by the excavations at Çatal Höyük in Turkey.

She suggested that the first commonly accepted trade commodity was not wheat - and certainly not useless silver or gold - but obsidian. Obsidian for points (arrowheads; spear tips) was broadly desirable by hunters. However,
more subtly, this was not originally the attraction of the city. The deposits were some miles away. Rather, having found the deposits, the city dwellers then knew what use it would be to those who already came there. Similarly, agriculture began in the city when excess seeds were thrown out and eventually took. To benefit from this accident, farming was moved beyond the city walls. Throughout history, farms have depended on cities, not the other way around.

And there is "gentrification." In The Economy of Cities, Jacobs argued against Schumpeter's idea of "creative destruction." Instead, she showed examples of old forms of production and wealth creation acquiring new purposes and meanings. The most vibrant cultures were those that let that happen.

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