Dark Age Ahead (2004)

Jane Jacobs

21 Jul 2020

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Dark Age Ahead is Jane Jacobs’ final book. She died two years later. It’s an essay on her belief that western civilisation is heading toward a new dark age, like that which enveloped Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire.

What is at stake is all the good things western civilisation has created.

The book posits that we are on the precipice of a new dark age due to the jeopardised ‘pillars’ of civilisation:

I’ve read this book before, but this is the first time reading it in the post-Trump and COVID-19 era. Many of Jacobs’ points ring truer today than in 2004. Particularly how science is being abondoned for dogma. However, this second read falls a little flatter than the first time. It felt too short for such a big topic and the examples that she drew to highlight the pillars listed above too few and not broad enough in their reaches.

Another issue is that maybe today we have a clearer picture of what is bad about western civilisation than Jacobs did in 2004. A dark age is certainly not something anyone wants. However, a blind concern that we’re at risk of losing what we have begs us to also ask – and define – what it is we want to save?

Despite these problems Jacobs’ ideas on economics and society are some of the most important from the last century, and this book fits along side some of her better works as a warning bell. It rings clear.