Prescience on Detroit Bankruptcy

Motor City Industrial Park
Motor City Industrial Park

I’ve been doing summer reading and will soon post my review of Jane Jacobs’ classic 1961 book on urban revitalization The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

In the meantime I was struck by a short passage in the book in which she foretells the death of Detroit.

On the recently bankrupted Detroit, we could call Jacobs fantastically prescient, or we could just as accurately acknowledge that Detroit has been dying for over half a century.

Detroit’s Chapter 9 Bankruptcy is just reaping what was sowed in the 1950s.

At one point in her argument about the need for diversity in cities, Jacobs deplores the Bronx, but notes that Detroit is even worse:

And if the Bronx is a sorry waste of city potentialities, as it is, consider the even more deplorable fact that it is possible for whole cities to exist, whole metropolitan areas, with pitifully little city diversity and choice.  Virtually all of urban Detroit is as weak on vitality and diversity as the Bronx.  It is ring superimposed upon ring of failed gray belts.  Even Detroit’s downtown itself cannot produce a respectable amount of diversity.  It is dispirited and dull, and almost deserted by seven o’clock of an evening.


Please also see my review of Jane Jacob’s fascinating Systems of Survival – A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics 

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