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Cities and the Wealth of Nations [Paperback]

Jane Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 12 1985
"Learned, iconoclastic and exciting...Jacobs' diagnosis of the decay of cities in an increasingly integrated world economy is on the mark."—New York Times Book Review

"Jacobs' book is inspired, idiosyncratic and personal...It is written with verve and humor; for a work of embattled theory, it is wonderfully concrete, and its leaps are breathtaking."—Los Angeles Times

"Not only comprehensible but entertaining...Like Mrs. Jacobs' other books, it offers a concrete approach to an abstract and elusive subject. That, all by itself, makes for an intoxicating experience."—New York Times

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Cities and the Wealth of Nations + The Economy of Cities + The Death and Life of Great American Cities
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From the Publisher

"It offers a concrete approach to an abstract and elusive subject. That, all by itself, makes for an intoxicating experience."--The New York Times

About the Author

Jane Jacobs was the legendary author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a work that has never gone out of print and that has transformed the disciplines of urban planning and city architecture. Her other major works include The Economy of Cities, Systems of Survival, The Nature of Economies and Dark Age Ahead. She died in 2006.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Wealth Creation Feb. 21 2001
"Any settlement that becomes import-replacing becomes a city." Cities and the Wealth of Nations, Jane Jacobs
Written by an economist, this is a very unusual book. Ms. Jacobs is not hampered by orthodox preconceived notions, misleading postulated theoretical myths like utility optimization, rationality, or efficient markets. These standard phrases of neo-classical economic theory cannot be found in her book. Instead, and although her discussion is entirely nonmathematical, she uses a crude qualtitative idea of excess demand dynamics, of growth vs. decline. Her expectation is never of equilibrium. The notion of equilibrium never appears in this book. Jacobs instead describes qualitatively the reality of nonequilibrium in the economic life of cities, regions, and nations. She concentrates on the surprises of economic reality.
Jacobs argues fairly convincingly that significant, distributed wealth is created by cities that are inventive enough to replace imports by their own local production, that this is the only reliable source of wealth for cities in the long run, and that these cities need other like-minded cities to trade with in order to survive and prosper. Her expectation is of growth or decline, not of equilibrium. If she is right then the Euro and the European Union are a bad mistake, going entirely in the wrong direction. As examples in support of her argument she points to independent cites like Singapore and Hong Kong with their own local currencies. Other interesting case histories are TVA, small villages in France and Japan, other cases in Italy, Columbia, Ethiopia, US, Iran, ... .
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5.0 out of 5 stars Specialization and Adaptation Nov. 13 1998
Jacobs writes convincingly that individual firms are not the basis of the economy. She identifies the city as a place in which economic activity is generated by a network of interlocking dependencies amkng firms as the basis of an economic analysis. She identifies these interdependencies as either being capable of adapting to change or incapable. A closed fixed system of interdependencies is the hallmark of a city (or a firm) which is ready for decline. Cities or enterprises in which the economic components are free to exploit new opportunties can adapt to challenges from outside. Jacobs charaterizes this adaptation as taking the form of a specialization of an existing economic component to supply a new need.
Contary to popular belief this notion of local as central to economic life is not opposed to glabalization. On the contrary it is opposed to the view that the nation state is central. Jacob's analysis explains economics as global network of independent local units. In this network each local unit will continuously adapt to the challenges and opportunities supplied by the needs and supplies of the other units.
Jacobs shows that only by being open to change, by being willing to adapt, by being willing to let old ways die oif they no longer serve their purpose can a city or an enterprise ensure its long term survival.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Downright SCARY. Aug. 28 1998
This book is a chilling repudiation of every word of our current economic gospel of global trade. Its central premise is that the metropolitan area or city-state is a fundamental economic building block, self-regulating and self-sustaining until outside forces conspire against it -- and what are shared currencies, free-trade agreements and globalization of markets for goods and labor but those very outside forces? If Jacobs' theory is correct -- and Lord help us, but I think it is -- we're on a runaway train in exactly the opposite direction we need to be going in to restore economic stability and fairness to the world. Everyone should read this book, if only to absorb a well-argued rebuttal to the free-trade propaganda with which we're constantly bombarded.
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