Jane Jacobs and the limits to experience

Andrew Kirby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This paper builds on two of the author's earlier pieces, and argues that Jane Jacob's most celebrated book was at its roots a form of NIMBYism and was thus regressive—the antithesis of any model of justice. The first half of the paper situates Jacobs in the now-familiar struggle with Robert Moses but also the bigger picture of redevelopment in mid-century Manhattan. The second half revolves around three aspects of Jacobs' approach to cities; the first is her focus on individual actors, the second a libertarian stance which argues that government was the problem, never the solution, and the third was a claim for universal principles (regarding, for instance, density and land-use), although these were not based upon any empirical evidence. In short, it is argued that while Jacobs was an admirable individual whose struggles have remained inspirational, it is a mistake to attempt to recycle her views in any type of urban design and to use her principles of neighborhood life as a model for how cities should evolve in the future. This is especially true of any considerations of how cities can be transformed into places that are more just.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-22
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Gentrification
  • Manhattan
  • Neighborhoods
  • Preservation
  • Urban design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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