Changing the World the Jane Jacobs Way
August 4th, 2017
If you’d like to make your mark on the world during your lifetime, with the hope that your influence extends beyond your death, a perfect role model is Jane Jacobs. Perhaps best known for her classic 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, she was a major urban activist over a long period of time (she died in 2006, at 89). Her influence reached beyond urban affairs to economics and more, and continues to grow. Last week, in my post about Tom Butler-Bowdon’s new book 50 Economics Classics, I noted that Jacobs was included, even though she was not an economist, for her book The Economy of Cities.
Even after last year’s activities surrounding the marking of 100 years since her birth, we are continuing to live in what might be called A Jane Jacobs Moment. A documentary about her activism, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, was released in April. One of the film’s producers is Robert Hammond, a co-founder of Friends of the High Line. I wrote about the work of Hammond and Joshua David, the visionaries behind the creation of the High Line, in my 2013 book Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way.
Last year, two major books were published: Robert Kanigel’s Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs; and Peter L. Laurence’s Becoming Jane Jacobs. Here are ten of the recent high-profile articles about her life and work:
Architectural Digest: A Journalist’s Fight to Save the Soul of New York City
The Atlantic: The Prophecies of Jane Jacobs
Los Angeles Times: A new documentary leaves Jane Jacobs trapped in the rubble of old arguments
The New York Times: Learning From Jane Jacobs, Who Saw Today’s City Yesterday
The Vogue article brings things full circle for that publication. In her early 20s, Jacobs (when she was still Jane Butzner) freelanced there, along with Harper’s Bazaar and elsewhere. I’m particularly interested in Jacobs and her work because, like me, she was born and raised in Scranton, Pa., and even graduated from the same high school, Scranton Central, (albeit many years before). I wrote about this briefly in 2011, in my post “The Richard Florida/Peter Drucker/Jane Jacobs Connection.” Jacobs’ biographer Kanigel spoke at the Lackawanna County Library System’s Lecture Series last year at the Scranton Cultural Center.
The books, articles and film about Jacobs are unlikely to be the last. To exert influence and truly change the world for the better, as she did, we can all learn from such Jacobs attributes as taking a persuasive and persistent stand for what we believe in; communicating clearly and often; and living in congruence with our deepest ideals, values and aspirations.