Book Review: Dark Age Ahead

Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs
Vintage, 2005
Hardcover, 256 pages

In this book by the author of the influential and now classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs proposes that North American culture is heading for a Dark Age, loosely defined as mass amnesia where a culture and way of life is forgotten. Though much broader in scope than Death and Life, many similar ideas can be found here, particularly in relation to communities, the automobile, and economics in relation to the physical environment. Jacobs frames her argument in five areas where the current trajectory points to a dismal future: the car's destruction of community life, credentialing vs. education, the abandonment of science, "dumbed-down taxes", and the subversion of self-policing. While not comprehensive, these chapters sufficiently explain her argument, though the validity of that argument is questionable. But that's not a problem, for enough good points are raised that making people think and talk about our culture's future is more important than her predictions coming true. If Death and Life is any proof, Jacobs's ability to effect change is a fact, though in this case the consequences won't be immediate but will unfold over time.