The Redevelopment of "Human and Social Values in Modern City Life": Jane Jacobs and the Rockefeller Foundation

Jan 01, 2009 | by
  • Description

In one of the earliest reviews of Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Lewis Mumford set the tone for the way that many readers would respond to this seminal study of urban life when he condescendingly nicknamed it "Mother Jacobs' Home Remedies." Published a few months after Mumford's New Yorker piece, Robert Weinberg's review of Death and Life complains that it is "written from the point of view of the homeowner, the housewife and the mother, living in the center of a large city, New York, in a community, Greenwich Village, one of whose neighborhoods, West Village, is the scene from which Mrs. Jacobs surveys what is happening around her." Edward J. Logue, the mind behind several midcentury urban renewal schemes, similarly accuses Jacobs of practicing a provincial urbanism. Admitting that "Greenwich Village has always had its fans," Logue sarcastically cites Jacobs as the "first one to propose that we use its street life as the model for city life everywhere. It is in the image of the Village that she would recast our slum-stricken cities." Like Mumford, Weinberg and Logue, many have since read Death and Life as a naïve vision of urban life fashioned by a housewife and amateur observer of the city.