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Dark Age Ahead Paperback – May 17, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400076706
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400076703
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities forever transformed the discipline of urban planning by concentrating on what actually helped cities work. Unencumbered by generations of fatuous theorizing, Jacobs proposed a model of action that has left a positive mark in neighborhoods all over the world. Her latest salvo, Dark Age Ahead, is, despite the pessimism of many of its conclusions, also positive, less a jeremiad than a firm but helpful reminder of just how much is at stake. Jacobs sees "ominous signs of decay" in five "pillars" of our culture: family, community, higher education, science and "self policing by the learned professions." Each is given a detailed treatment, with sympathetic but hard-headed real-world assessments that are often surprising and always provocative and well-expressed. Her chapter on the decline of the nuclear family completely avoids the moral hand-wringing of the kindergarten Cassandras to place the blame on an economy that has made the affordable home either an unattainable dream or a crippling debt. Her discussion of the havoc wrought by the lack of accountability seems ripped from any number of headlines, but her analysis of the larger effects sets it apart. A lifetime of unwasted experience in a number of fields has gone into this short but pungent book, and to ignore its sober warnings would be foolish indeed.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

The end of the world as we know it has inspired a lot of writing lately. With this selection, eminent architectural and city-planning scholar Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities) argues that Western civilization in general and North American society in particular are headed for a period of reconfiguration, chaos, and--perhaps most frightening--lost cultural memory: a Dark Ages for the new millennium. Jacobs examines five key load-bearing pillars of Western civilization (community and family, higher education, scientific advancement, taxation, and self-policing by learned professions) and compares their dry rot to the crumbling of earlier cultures. Getting beyond well-worn parallels between America and Rome, she also considers the respective Dark Ages of Native America and, with the help of Karen Armstrong's work on post-agrarian cultures, the Middle East. Changes in agriculture and transportation, as it turns out, are particularly important to her argument and reveal Jacobs' sound urban-studies foundation, a solid analysis of demographics that keeps this book's alarming thesis from being simply alarmist. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

In fact, the rest of the book is like a collection of justifiably-rejected magazine articles strung together.
Jeff Walker
In this book, Jane Jacobs outlines five aspects of society today that, if unchecked, could lead us to a new Dark Age such as the one the Roman Empire experienced.
Debbie the Book Devourer
I'm deffinately not one of those, but at least it inspired me to look into many of the ideas and perhaps contribute some small thing.
C.Batt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By V.H. Amavilah on December 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The West is living "The Hazard" of an impending "Dark Age", unable to anticipate clearly because of widespread "mass amnesia". The Dark Age is predictable from history, which shows that each major collapse of civilization was followed by a disturbing social transformation. The Dark Age Ahead (the book) agrees in part with Jared Diamond's account that Mesopotamia, for example, fell to ruins because of "environmental ignorance" (p. 15), but that was not the whole story. Part of the story is that there are cultural failings that have signaled the decline of major civilizations in the past, which offer lessons for the present and forecasts for the future.

In that connection the book identifies five factors that jeopardize pillars of the culture of the West, where West = North America + Western Europe. The five factors are: (a) the destruction of the traditional family and community; (b) the replacement of education by credentialization; (c) the dominance of technology over science; (d) the overpowering government and its opaque taxation system; and (e) the loss of self-policing attributes of culture. These factors constitute "The Hazard" society is currently facing, and are the subjects of the chapters of the book.

The superimposition of the household (economic family unit) over the nuclear family (biological family unit) has condemned many a family to failure. So "while politicians, clergy, creators of advertisement, and other worthies assert stoutly that the family is the foundation of society, the nuclear family, as an institution is currently in grave trouble" (p. 29). By blurring the difference between the nuclear family and other household units the automobile industry has done more harm to the family institution than illegal drugs.
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102 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Brian Harmon on May 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Jane Jacobs claims that an argument can be made that we reside on the precipice of a new dark age. She provides a very useful outline upon which such an argument could be structured. But she does not make the argument herself. It seems like Ms. Jacobs is using this book to plant the seeds of an idea that she hopes others will step up to germinate and grow. If you are at all skeptical about its premise, this book probably won't do anything for you. The arguments will seem scattered, and the examples will seem superficial at best and irrelevant at worst. But if you are at all open to the dark age notion, or think it is feasible (as I have for a number of years),then the book may be a nice aid in helping you to organize your reading and thinking to better build a case for this haunting premise. Hopefully, some of the rest of us will pick up Jacobs' notion and give it the full treatment it deserves...
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Jane Jacobs wrote "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" in 1961 stating that neighborhoods would be the pulse and soul of city life. City planners and engineers tried their best to laugh her out of town but lo and behold her wisodm of almost everything she had to say came true.
This book now focuses on the five crucial weak spots in the foundation of contemporary life in the West: taxes; community & family; higher education; science and technology; and the lack of self-policing by learned professions. She then argues that these problems lie behind more conventional trouble spots: the environment, crime, and the discrepancy between rich and poor.
My only problem with this book is that she's rather brusque in regards to shoring up her arguments with examples. The book does offer some nice insights for one to ponder on but as far as looking for examples, try turning to your own life experience.
She isn't a historian nor is this book intended to be a historical review of what one may assume as the Dark Ages of the past.
If you're concerned with America's changing culture and changing climate and can keep an open mind, this book could serve as a stepping stone.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William Timothy Lukeman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 29, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What thoughtful person hasn't lately wondered if American society & culture are in decline? And if so, is it an irreversible decline?

In this short volume, Jane Jacobs articulates her fears of a coming Dark Age, choosing to focus on a few specific indicators. So this isn't an all-encompassing look at what's happening right now, buttressed with copious references & facts. It's more of a personal cri de coeur -- certainly drawing on a lifetime of study & knowledge, but ultimately speaking very much from the heart of old age, watching as the world eagerly marches closer to the edge of a cliff.

What particularly struck me was the emphasis on how easily so much can be forgotten, how a culture can wither on the vine without anyone really notcing until it's too late. As Jacobs points out, there are places in America that already live a Dark Ages existence -- there always have been -- but the number of such places is growing. People who once thought themselves secure are now sliding into the dark.

But how can so much be forgotten in the digital age? As Jacobs also points out, the digital library is an especially fraglie thing, one that will deteriorate far more swiftly than an old-fashioned printed book. More than that, though, memory has begun to deteriorate at a frightening pace; supposedly educated people are ignorant of knowledge that a typical grade-schooler once knew.

In addition, the changes in society, the glorification of profit & power above all, the disregard for what we now call the 99% by the 1%, are all having a nagative effect on the fabric of life. Basic survival is becoming precarious, even as the arts & wisdom that sustain a culture are ignored & discarded. No wonder Jacobs was so concerned as she approached the end of her own life!

Again, a smaller book, but well worth reading -- recommended!
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