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progressive reactionary

A word of caution: while it's sometimes easy and convenient to group together Jane Jacobs with New Urbanism, there are some important distinctions between the two. Jacobs's line of thought originated as a critique of the stale and flawed modernist modes of planning that had come to dominate postwar America. She came out of an entirely progressive tradition of political protest and challenges to the status quo as represented by Robert Moses and others. New Urbanism certainly evolved from Jacobs's theories of walkable neighborhoods, small-scale development, etc. -- but at its heart lies a conservative, even reactionary impulse that is contrary to everything espoused by Jane Jacobs in the 60's.

As for Kunstler, I think he belongs in his own, bizarre category. He falls somewhere at the convergence of paranoia, conspiracy theory, and reclusive libertarianism. I agree, though: he is entertaining.


I agree with you that New Urbanist's worship of Jane Jacobs stems from a highly reductionist reading of her work, and taking only the bits that fit their world view.

My comments re Kunstler is more about his ego and self-perception as some kind of heroic continuation of civic struggle that Jacobs engaged in.

Having said all this, I have a deep unease about Jacobs and The Death and Life of Great American Cities, that whole "ballet of the sidewalk" schtick. I'm going to read it again and see if I can put my finger on what troubles me about it.

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