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"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 on"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...

Title : Cities and the Wealth of Nations
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780394729114
Format Type : Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages : 257 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Cities and the Wealth of Nations Reviews

  • Troy
    2018-10-28 22:38

    I haven't read this book in almost ten years, but I love Jane Jacobs. She's one of my heroes. However, I'm not sure where I stand with this book. Economically, I get the sense that she's right, but I don't know any 'serious' economist who has taken up her challenge. On the other hand, this should be a bible for libertarians, and if there's one (current) ideology I despise, it's libertarianism, especially fiscal libertarianism.Jacobs roughly argues that the problem with economics is that it focuses on nations, when economics should focus on cities. She claims that wealth production is fully dependent on cities, and that innovation is a fundamental aspect of growing cities, and that innovation allows for wealth production. She claims that innovation and it's organic ramifications are oppositional to agrarian rural living. There's a lot I want to write about, including the connections between this book and Guns Germs and Steel, but this is it for now... I have to go to work.

  • Guy
    2018-10-19 20:33

    This is an unbelievably important book for anyone critical of current economic practice. Jacobs gives a counter-intuitive but absolutely compelling argument as to why the great cities of the world are falling into decline. And that is that they are subjected to a common currency. Jacobs' arguments are lucid, comprehendible, reasonable, and fly in the face of just about every economic truism that the corporate media throws at its readers and viewers. A must read for anyone seriously interested in economic and social structures, their rise and fall.

  • Jon Cox
    2018-10-28 23:27

    It took me a while to get through this book because it is a serious and direct explanation of economic processes at work in the world. It is well written, but a bit dry simply because of the nature of the topic (obviously I'm not an economist). However, there are some very important implications to the theory that Jane Jacobs describes, one of which being the terrible damage that our past and current politicians are doing to the economy out of ignorance. I'm not an economist, so I don't know what the current responses to Ms. Jacobs theory are, but to me it seems to be very clearly relevant and important to society. If I could, I would make this book required reading for all politicians before they can make any decisions in office.

  • Paul
    2018-10-17 00:41

    The first I heard of Jane Jacobs was in 1986, while I was working as a user test analyst at the Insurance Corporation of B.C. I had coffee one day with a coworker who, it turned out, had a degree in economics. We got talking about economic issues and he mentioned Jane Jacobs."She's really good," he said. "Cities and the Wealth of Nations. You should read that."I picked up a copy of the Vintage paperback, read it, and loved it. I admired everything about it: the simple, practical, and persuasive way she developed her points; her lack of attachment to any theoretical school or point of view; her fearlessness in junking whole continents of sacred-cow economic theory; her passionate interest in the subject she was writing about, in this case, the economies of cities and how these are the real agents behind the purely artificial construct we call national economies; her admiration for human ingenuity; her brevity; and her exemplary writing style. She was and is everything I think a writer of nonfiction should be.In chapter 1, "Fool's Paradise", 25 pages long, she demolishes all of economic theory, at least in its efforts to explain the twin phenomena of inflation and unemployment. In simple, insightful, nonrancorous prose she demonstrates the embarrassing failure of the most revered economists—from Adam Smith to Karl Marx to John Maynard Keynes to Milton Friedman—to account for these unwanted conditions, especially when, as in the 1970s, they happen simultaneously (I remember terms like "stagflation" and "slumpcession" being coined during the Ford administration to describe the economic malaise gripping the U.S. at that time).Having demolished the previous explanations for inflation and unemployment, she goes on to propose her own. The pith of it is that, first, there is no such thing as a "national economy". The U.S. economy, for example, is actually an agglomeration of many different economies, and different parts of the country are in vastly different economic condition, and earn their living in vastly different ways. The real, organic generator of human wealth is the city, and vital cities undergo bursts of wealth-generation through one basic process: the replacement of imports. This means that a city—not a country—stops importing certain goods and services, and replaces these with things that are made (or done) locally. Money or goods that formerly left the city to buy imports now stays within it, creating jobs, buildings, and new businesses—wealth.Classical economic theory, which holds that inflation and unemployment are reciprocal, that if one is high the other must be low, is wrong. Jacobs holds that the two of them have always in fact appeared together, and that they are symptoms of economic decline. She gives the example of Ethiopia as a country that, in the centuries before Christ, had been a vital, wealthy empire, but now is a poor. Aside from subsistence agriculture, there is very little work there (high unemployment), and even though prices for most things are very low by our standards, they have slipped out of reach of most of the population (high inflation).I became a kind of Jacobsian. I read all of her other books—each one is excellent. If you start by reading the first, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, you can follow the progress of her thinking from book to book: how her interests gradually spread from the question of how and why slums appeared in American cities to, finally, how the world economy functions with respect to the environment.She was an example of a brilliant and nonacademic thinker. She held no teaching post and had no university degree. To me, fussy, picky, and critical as I am, she is one of the very few writers whose work, in its entirety, I truly admire.

  • A-ron
    2018-10-19 00:21

    This book holds a particularly lasting influence over my thinking of economics.

  • Perez Malone
    2018-10-28 18:19

    The idea that cities are the main economic unit is intriguing and argued well. I cannot critique the argument though as I know so little about econmics. Still, it made sense for the most part. The organization in the book is usually good though I was at times annoyed by her sentence structure.The book is rather dated (what will become of those Soviets?) but sounds remarkably fresh in the context of the "buy local" movment. This book and Jacobs' ideas should be adopted by those who are dedicated to getting people to purchase from local producers. It makes sense because not only do the profits from Wal-mart stores (or Starbucks for that matter) not stay in the local economy (they go to Arkansas or Seattle) they also stifle local stores and producers. The stifling of local stores is obvious but if you look around in a Wal-mart you'll start to notice that very few items are from your local area. Which makes sense for the stores, they buy in bulk from national producers, not local ones. When you start to think of cities and not states or countries as the primary economic unit, you realize how bad that is. Even if Wal-mart were to buy US made products, that would do little for the small producers in Rochester.Jacobs would probably point out that even if the producer in Rochester were to make a better product than a producer in Phoenix, for the same price, Wal-mart would probably go with the Phoenix producer if they were larger; so Rochester would continue to stagnate. Everybody else in the country would be fine with that until the same thing happened to their own city's producers, or God forbid, Wal-mart selected suppliers in China. (What would that be like?) The US based example seems like a wash when you look at the economy on a national level; it starts to look disastrous when you look at city economies like Jacobs would have us do. Maybe if the economy weren't currently in the toilet I would be a little more skeptical, but given the current situation and nearly endless string of recessions, I'm inclined to buy Jacobs' vision. So, buy local.

  • Tim
    2018-11-10 22:21

    The idea that cities are the main economic unit is intriguing and argued well. I cannot critique the argument though as I know so little about econmics. Still, it made sense for the most part. The organization in the book is usually good though I was at times annoyed by her sentence structure.The book is rather dated (what will become of those Soviets?) but sounds remarkably fresh in the context of the "buy local" movment. This book and Jacobs' ideas should be adopted by those who are dedicated to getting people to purchase from local producers. It makes sense because not only do the profits from Wal-mart stores (or Starbucks for that matter) not stay in the local economy (they go to Arkansas or Seattle) they also stifle local stores and producers. The stifling of local stores is obvious but if you look around in a Wal-mart you'll start to notice that very few items are from your local area. Which makes sense for the stores, they buy in bulk from national producers, not local ones. When you start to think of cities and not states or countries as the primary economic unit, you realize how bad that is. Even if Wal-mart were to buy US made products, that would do little for the small producers in Rochester.Jacobs would probably point out that even if the producer in Rochester were to make a better product than a producer in Phoenix, for the same price, Wal-mart would probably go with the Phoenix producer if they were larger; so Rochester would continue to stagnate. Everybody else in the country would be fine with that until the same thing happened to their own city's producers, or God forbid, Wal-mart selected suppliers in China. (What would that be like?) The US based example seems like a wash when you look at the economy on a national level; it starts to look disastrous when you look at city economies like Jacobs would have us do. Maybe if the economy weren't currently in the toilet I would be a little more skeptical, but given the current situation and nearly endless string of recessions, I'm inclined to buy Jacobs' vision. So, buy local.

  • Ben
    2018-11-15 22:36

    Please read this book. This came recommended to me by the president of my company. Jacobs realigns our thinking about economics when we focus on states and national economy. It was written about 20 years ago, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, before USSR became Russia + some other countries, before Yugoslavia broke up, before the EU, before NAFTA. Before globalization. I think she would have had some fun things to say about that, because economics moved in exactly the opposite direction that she says we need to focus. Focus on urban area economics. Make sure cities are import-replacing. This means that if you see that your city is importing everything (food, clothing, tools, etc), then all of the money you earn is going somewhere else...to an import-replacing city. Our country is turning into a failing economy because we're exporting manufacturing work and replacing all of those jobs with service jobs. All of the service jobs are providing services that require goods that are not made here. I think anyone concerned with buying local should use this in their arsenal. It's a great case for locavores, and those who are proud of the local farms and manufacturers. We need to stop focusing on why GM is leaving and start small companies in our own cities that help people within our cities first, and then people in other cities (this is how you make money...taking it from other regions). San Francisco is doing it. NYC is doing it. They both weathered the recession quite well.

  • Bart
    2018-10-27 20:39

    Much more literary (and literate) than most books in the economics genre. Its distinguishing detail is its concentration on the economics of cities in lieu of nations.A few highlights:Apart from the direct practical advantages of improvisation, the practice itself fosters a state of mind essential to all economic development, no matter what stage development has reached at the time. The practice of improvising, in itself, fosters delight in pulling it off successfully and, most important, faith in the idea that if one improvisation doesn't work out, another likely can be found that will. Intervention, practical problem-solving, improvisation and innovation are all part and parcel of one another. (p. 150)andAnalogically, the common thermostat works beautifully at its own corrective task of registering changes in temperature and triggering the appropriate corrections, but it is futile to wish that it would govern the speed of a rotary mill because that is the task we want done; however, a different feedback control does exactly that. In short, feedback controls are built right into the systems they correct, and the corrections they trigger are not discretionary. - (p. 159)If it didn't have the influence it merited that is attributable to economics' wholesale failure as a science, not the ideas this book imparts.

  • Cate
    2018-10-16 01:39

    It's Jane Jacobs--what else do I need to say! Okay, so everyone may not love Jacobs as much as I do, so I'll explain. Jacobs continues on the tradition of her previous books (Death and Life of Great American Cities, the Economy of Cities) and examines wealth, poverty, and ingenuity. The basic premise of the book is that cities are the fundamental economic unit, not nations as economists from Adam Smith on have assumed. This assumption may seem trivial unless you understand how varying jurisdictions raise tax revenue and use tarriffs. In changing this assumption Jacobs makes a case for why some cities are successful and why others are not--in short, successful cities are import-replacing. While the book doesn't exhaust all the topics covered (like analogies between natural ecosystems and economic systems) Jacobs does write about this relationship 15 years later in the the Nature of Economies. By itself, Cities and the Wealth of Nations may seem confusing, but taken as a chapter in the series Jacobs completed in her lifetime it makes a great amount of sense. Unfortunately, Jacobs ideas have been ignored, and economic systems have continued to drain cities of vitality by pouring ridiculous subsidies into the hinterland.

  • Lauren Elizabeth
    2018-11-14 21:38

    "Today the Soviet Union and the United States each predicts and anticipates the economic decline of the other. Neither will be disappointed."—This book starts with the question “Why is stagflation (the concurrent rising of both prices and unemployment) even a thing?” and goes through history to first explain why previous economic theories failed to account for it, and then why previous attempts to fix it have failed to alleviate it, and finally examines the causes of how it comes about in the first place.In the process, Jacobs lays bare the entire root system of the economy of the trading world examining in detail examples as disparate as the Roman empire, the current Pacific Rim, ancient China, modern Urugay, and of course the US and Russia.Without setting out to justify or refute a particular ideological position, this book is able to dispassionately evaluate the economic ramifications of things like military spending, welfare and subsidies, national currencies, and international loans.tl;dr: This book is really good and you should read it.

  • Margaret Sankey
    2018-11-16 01:48

    aka Why a lot of Development Plans fail. Jacobs, writing in the mid 1980s, critiques cities whose wealth (too often transitory) trades the boom of economy of scale dependent on monoculture or a single industry or resource for the flexibility of a push-pull diversified regional economy. Using examples like the Volta Dam, medieval Venice, the TVA and the rust belt, she examines the dangers of failed cities and their stunted hinterlands. Interestingly, she predicted the irreversible decline of New York and had no idea what was coming in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe (although some 'Stan oil cities, not to mention Williston, are performing to prediction). Boise and Fargo, oddly enough, have actually been good examples of isolated regional centers with growing and diverse inter-connected economic growth, although both suffer from the problem that the surrounding small rural areas are socially backward and unfriendly enough to the smart young people who leave that they don't want to go back to live in and invest in them.

  • William Vogel
    2018-11-10 18:20

    Intelligent, insightful, and speaking almost orthogonally to the concerns of orthodox macroeconomics, this book articulates what we could well call the 'Jacobs Hypothesis:' that the basic units of macroeconomic life are the areas of economic vitality found in cities, that macroeconomic interactions are best described as trade networks between cities, rather than nations, and, as a political corollary to this hypothesis, that the Westphalian state is at best a hanger-on to, and more generally a parasite on this economic vibrancy. This is a hypothesis badly in need of empirical testing, both because of its compelling but almost maddeningly non-technical articulation, and because of the vital importance in determining its validity. The passage of nearly three decades since its publication should aid in this endeavor.I would certainly recommend this book as an engaging, thought-provoking read, even suspending judgment on its thesis.

  • Stephen
    2018-11-01 17:36

    Jane Jacobs loves cities. InThe Death and Life of Great American Cities, written in the Sixties, she blasted urban-redesign efforts that were based on the assumption that people actually didn't like cities and would prefer to live in the country -- millions of city-dwellers to the contrary. In "Cities and the Wealth of Nations", she argues that the misunderstanding of what makes cities great extends to a national level. She says that macroeconomists have misunderstood for centuries that all the energy and economic development in a country come from its cities. It's powerfully argued and beautifully presented. Conversations in subsequent days, however, have suggested that the economics is rather questionable.

  • Ted
    2018-11-14 19:41

    Jacobs challenges the paradigm of the nation as the most appropriate unit of organization for economies, and promotes that of the city or city region.A compelling case for city-states as a primary basis for economic life. Her arguments about 'transactions of decline' (Chapter 12) and the idea of an 'esthetics of drift' (Chapter 14) especially resonated with me.Maybe Obama--instead mythologizing the importance of being one nation--should be advocating for a continent of multiple sovereignties that make up a network of vigorous inter-city trade--promoting economic development defined as 'a process of continually improvising in a context that makes injecting improvisations into everyday life feasible.'

  • Steve
    2018-11-04 21:38

    This is a well written, engaging, though occasionally dry book. It is worth reading because of the unique perspective it gives in relation to nations, cities, economic output, and trade. Jacobs is undoubtedly the greatest prophet for cities. I am not entirely convinced by her argument, but at least it is original.My only real complaint is that her prescription for economic stagnation is politically impossible, something she acknowledges. It gives the book a feeling of unending pessimism; our destruction is ingrained by the very world we inhabit.

  • Kris
    2018-11-11 17:43

    This is a paradigm expanding book. Jane Jacobs has brought together insightful observation and research, history, and economics together which recommend theories of economy for nations, regions, and cities. She provides numerous examples of what works, and what doesn't, in various efforts of economic development. This book shatters many other theories of economics in a very convincing way. It also shatters our notion of what nations should and shouldn't be.For anyone with even a remote interest in economics, this book is a must-read.

  • Steven
    2018-11-06 20:33

    Basically makes the argument that cities, not states and nations, are the main economic engine. Not sure how Jacobs' work is regarded outside of "Death and Life of Great American Cities," and I'm also not informed enough to comment on them with any credibility. Still, I love the way her books make me think about cities. Her enthusiasm for cities, even in writing on economics, is really great.

  • Doug
    2018-10-19 23:41

    This book really shook up my conception of economies which seemed a good thing considering how ineffectual mainstream economic theories have show themselves as of late. I tended to agree with Jacobs' argument that cities, not nations, are center of economic life and the key to understanding economics. She argued the case well and didn't offer easy solutions to the complex problems she described. I'd be interested to see her theory put to how in depth economic study.

  • Ali
    2018-11-12 18:23

    It was pretty dry, written in an economist's vocabulary, with the basic premise that the only economic unit that functioned well was a city-region, a city with it's surrounding industry and agriculture. She thought that nations were too large for the chaotic improvisation of capitalism to function. And forget about planned economies.

  • Scott
    2018-11-06 00:23

    Jacobs argues that the success of homegrown industries and the failure of top-down macroeconomic policies is due to the personality of the city. A city must have the will to grow and not simply to import the goods and satellite industries of another power center. The growth of these cities are responsible for the economic position of the nation. Another argument that gives a planner pause.

  • steve jacobs
    2018-11-05 23:35

    An interesting and compelling defence of cities as the necessary (and only) level of economy and society. Published in 1984, some of the book's examples (the USSR, a New York City in what seems to be an irrevocable downward spiral...), but many of its theories not only apply, but are quite convincing.

  • Andrew
    2018-11-05 22:34

    An extremely interesting thesis. Her arguments carry a lot of weight, and the examples she uses provide ample support for her theories. A worthwhile read for anyone interested in regional economic development.

  • Steve
    2018-11-08 23:48

    This book's now a little dated, but its core ideas -- that wealth is largely created by innovation in cities (well, metropolitan areas in the current terminology) and that certain types of subsidy policies can decrease overall economic utility -- may have been expressed first or most clearly here.

  • danah
    2018-11-09 22:30

    -One thing we do know by now because events have rubbed our faces in it: it would be rash to suppose that macro-economics, as it stands today, has useful guidance for us.-

  • Travis
    2018-10-24 18:24

    Essential reading for any armchair economist (aren't we all) and lays the groundwork for the modern, borderless economy that we have today. Short and pithy.

  • Frank
    2018-10-19 21:29

    This is a must read for our current economic situation. Written in 1984 with solutions for today. This book discusses how to put cities back at the center of economies and get local control to work.

  • Edith
    2018-11-04 20:39

    Ok, I'm a geek sometimes and when I like the way an author writes, I enjoy seeing how their mind works and extrapolates on a topic.

  • Joni
    2018-11-14 23:24

    I just love Jane Jacobs' viewpoints. She has so much common sense and she is able to cut through long-held misconceptions concerning the ways cities generate wealth. This otherwise boring topic takes on real life in this book. Although she passed away in 2006, her ideas span time. This book in particular book examines the ways nations acquire wealth. According to Jacobs it is generated on a very basic, local level and percolates to the top. The top-down theory doesn't work. It has never worked. This book points out the fallacies of some of the most common ways people use to pump life back into an ailing economy. These downfalls are unremitting military production, unremitting subsidies to poor regions, and heavy promotion of trade between advanced and backward economies. These three things have been the undoing of every major empire from the Roman empire onward to today.This book was a real eye-opener for me on many levels. It changed the way I think about the way cultures thrive or fail.

  • Jeramey
    2018-11-09 19:25

    Impressively clear thoughts on how to grow city economies.Decades old at this point, but still relevant. It illustrates why Wisconsin's Foxconn deal is unlikely to transform the Milwaukee economy.