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The Millions : Fifty Years On: Jane Jacobs and the Rebirth of New York

The Death and Life is a terrific read, tart and personable, larded with great gobs of commonsensical observations about how large cities work, presented in clear, straightforward prose. But wise as The Death and Life is, it doesn’t take a degree in economics to see that Jacobs’ observations on the virtues of walkable streets and diverse neighborhoods offered little insight into what was really killing America’s great cities in the middle of the last century: the loss of their manufacturing base.

This is why anyone who wants to understand Jacobs should read her later books, particularly The Economy of Cities. Together, The Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Economy of Cities – the first a classic, the second far less known – form a single, groundbreaking treatise on how cities succeed and fail. Jacobs’ message is simple: a city, and thus a society, lives and dies by how well it can build a creative environment for its citizens to innovate their way out of trouble.

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