Saturday, November 13, 2010

The True Urbanism blog -- what is it?

This blog is an attempt to look at cities from the perspective of "True Urbanism." 
(Author's Note:  I haven't had as much time as I would have liked to work on this blog, so the blog is, obviously, still in its early trial stages and is still "under construction" -- Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010.)

What is "True Urbanism"?

As I am using it, "True Urbanism" is a way of looking at cities, economies and civilizations that is, in very large part, inspired by the writings (and interviews and speeches) of Jane Jacobs -- at least as they've been interpreted by me (i.e., "Grandsonknickerbocker," a/k/a Benjamin Hemric ).  It is thus a way of looking at cities that is based upon Jacobs' attempt to understand how cities, economies and civilizations thrive, stagnate or decline.  In practical terms, it tends to be a market-oriented viewpoint, but not slavishly so.  I suspect that the "True Urbanism" viewpoint is one that might also be highly compatible with the work of famed economist Friedrich August von Hayek.  (However, this is only a guess as I'm only superficially familiar with his work at this time.)

Would Jane Jacobs herself agree with "True Urbanism" (as I am defining it)? 

It seems to me that Jacobs would, indeed, agree with a great deal of it, especially since it is largely based upon repeated readings of all seven of her major books (and also upon what is probably a good percentage of her interviews too).  Thus about 95% of True Urbanism comes pretty much directly out of her work.

BUT, THEN AGAIN, there is also the possiblity that Jacobs might strongly object to my interpretations of her work -- especially in the areas (which I think of as being small) where I disagree with her work.  While I like to think that in an extended discussion with Jacobs I would ultimately be able to convince her to see things my way and to gain her support for "True Urbanism," such an extended discussion is, of course, no longer possible.   So one never really knows for sure, one way or the other. 

It seems to me, though, that it would be intellectual dishonest not to acknowledge that 95% (or more) of the ideas that are contained in True Urbanism come directly out of a reading of Jane Jacobs' books, interviews, and talks -- despite what slight other differences there may be.  Therefore it's important to point out in this opening statement, as many authors (including Jane Jacobs) are wont to point out in the prefaces to their books, that stating that another person has largely inspired ones own ideas is not meant to imply that such other person would necessarily agree with them.

What are the seven major works of Jane Jacobs?

Here are the books that I am referring to as the seven "major" works of Jane Jacobs:

1) "Death and Life of Great American Cities" (1961)

2) "The Economy of Cities" (1969)

3) "The Question of Separatism" (1980)

4) "Cities and the Wealth of Nations" (1984)

5) "Systems of Survival" (1992)

6) "The Nature of Economies" (2000)

7) "Dark Age Ahead" (2004)

Why use the term "True Urbanism" at all? 
Aren't there existing expressions in the English language that already serve this purpose?

Why not use the expression "Jane Jacobism" for instance? 

Well, aside from the fact that only Jane Jacobs in her lifetime could properly decide what Jane Jacobism is or is not (in terms of what it was she meant to say and how her work might be extended) and she's no longer here to do that, it also seems to me that using the term "Jane Jacobism" winds up putting the focus on Jane Jacobs the person (which was not what Jacobs was interested in, in the first place) and shifts it away from the major subjects areas of her ideas: cities, economies and civilizations.  Thus, it seems to me that using the expression "True Urbanism," instead, is a nice way of shifting the focus back to cities, economies and civilizations, while at the same time still allowing one to neatly acknowledge the enormous debt that such a viewpoint owes to Jane Jacobs, the person.

What about using the term "New Urbanism" (or "New [Sub-]Urbanism" as I prefer to call it)?

It seems to me that "New [Sub-]Urbanism" -- especially in the real world, as opposed to "in theory" -- reflects only an extremely small part of Jane Jacobs' understandings about cities, economies and civilizations.  It also seems to me that the differences between New [Sub-]Urbanism and the work of Jane Jacobs are actually much greater than the few similarities (which I think are mostly superficial) that may exist.

Jacobs herself had some good things and some bad things to say about "New [Sub-]Urbanism" in her lifetime.  In her postitive comments it seems to me that either a) she was being an optimist about the future direction of "New [Sub-]Urbanism" or b) she was unaware, perhaps, of the way a good many influential "New [Sub-]Urbanists" actually talk about genuine urbanism in real life (e.g., when they aren't talking to Jane Jacobs).  It appears to me, however, that there is really a strong anti-urban strain to "New [Sub-]Urbanism" -- as well as a strongly pro heavy-handed government planning strain, too.

In fact, the term "True Urbanism" (as I'm using it) is an outgrowth of my attempt to compare and contrast New [Sub-]Urbanism with various other kinds of urbanism -- most especially with both "old urbanism" (the period before the rise of urban planning as a profession) and the post-"urban renewal" era urbanism of Jane Jacobs.  Since New [Sub-]Urbanism struck me as being (at least in practice, if not in theory) a superficial, "phony" urbanism, it seemed appropriate to call the much more genuine and comprehensive Jane Jacobs approach to urbanism (i.e., Jane Jacobs' work as I interpret it), "True Urbanism."

How will this blog eventually be set up (once I really get it going)?

As I see it at the moment, this blog will mostly consist of links to comments relating to True Urbanism that I've posted elsewhere.  In the meantime, if one is interested and has the time, one can find many of these posts by using a search engine and typing in one or more of the following names:

Jane Jacobs
Benjamin Hemric
True Urbanism
New [Sub-]Urbanism

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Since this is a first time blog and I'm not sure how much time it will require, comments are not being accepted.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Grandson Knickerbocker ( Benjamin Hemric )

Originally posted on Sat., November 13, 2010;  revised Nov. 23, 2010;  revised Dec. 11, 2010;  revised Dec. 12, 2010; revised Dec. 18, 2010.