The Death and Life of Great American Cities


Jacobs takes a scientific approach when discussing “the kind of problem a city is” in chapter 22 of The Death and Life of Great American Cities. She first defines the history of different strategies and tactics used to explain systems of energy. Jacobs quotes Dr. Warren Weaver (a relation to Mitch Weaver?) in stating that there are “three stages of the development of scientific thought: ability to deal with problems of simplicity; ability to deal with problems of disorganized complexity; and the ability to deal with problems of organized complexity.” City planning is often mistaken as a problem of simplicity, taking action against the cause and effect of two variables in a system, mainly population and housing. Jacobs argues that this is a grave err. A cities existence is more like a problem of organized complexity. Life sciences and city planning are comparable. They both have “a sizable number of factors which are interrelated into an organic whole.” Some of the reasoning behind this belief lies in the fact that one cannot take a segment of a community/city and isolate it from the entirety of its surroundings. There are too many forces that act upon and mingle amongst that segment and it attributes, contributing to the definition of. This goes for any part of the aggregation of a city. A city is a living organism; a product of nature. Mostly cities are seen as an outgrowth of man and are treated accordingly. This is just an extension of the thought that technology is created by man, not the idea that man is defined by technology. Also, humans have the tendency to believe that things we imagine we create are temporal, not as lasting past our breaths or wants. These objects create an invisible architecture of the mind and find their selves eternal homes upon the spaces they inhabit. One must take all of this into account when formulating a plan for arranging a city. If taken for granted or ignored, then a stagnation of spirit and movement occurs within the system. It causes a slow decay of life and meaning. Eventually, this must be addressed or the entity will discombobulate and destroy itself internally, trying to regress (or progress) back to its natural wanted state.