Nature of Economies

Jacobs, Jane
Publisher:  Vintage Canada, Toronto, Canada
Year Published:  2001   First Published:  2000
Pages:  190pp   Price:  $29.95   ISBN:  0-679-31096-7
Library of Congress Number:  HD75.6.J31 2001   Dewey:  330
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX7285

Jacobs argues that since human beings exist wholly within nature as part of natural order in every respect, we should look to the processes of nature for vibrant and flexible models of economic planning.

Abstract:  In the aptly titled "The Nature of Economies," Jane Jacobs explains the parallels between laws of nature and laws of economics. Jacob's thesis and counter-arguments are presented in a discussion between five friends, each from a different academic background. They explore ideas surrounding the environment, social equality, sustainability, co-operation, economic collapse, fitness for survival and unpredictability.

In an effort to facilitate sustainable development, workers have begun to create manufacturing processes that mimic nature, rather than control it. Jacobs argues that economists should emulate this technique and respect 'natural laws' that govern trade. Co-developments between sectors are important features of healthy economies and are more likely to emerge when economists adhere to these guidelines.

Jacobs proposes that examining how developments coexist sheds light on why some economies thrive and others falter. The idea of import substitution is particularly central; this occurs when cities create local replacements for products that were previously imported. If the settlement contains no natural co-developments for these new systems, an individual business will not mesh with its surroundings and will likely fail.

This book also examines the ways in which inequality and oppression weaken economies. Workers are likely to have great insights about how their work can be improved, but are often separated from the decision-making process. The author argues for equality based on both social and economic grounds.

Fitness for survival is based upon having both the capacity to compete and breed and having a habitat in which to do so. In the past, efforts to predict the future have involved shaping it via expensive technology or solutions that rarely address the core issues. In contrast, Jacobs suggests that we simply 'make ourselves up as we go along' and surrender the idea that it is possible to accurately predict human nature.

This book is humourous and accessible to anyone with an interest in economics, ecology and social equality.

[abstract by Heather Skelton]

Table of Contents


Damn, Another Ecologist
The Nature of Development
The Nature of Expansion
The Nature of Self-Refuelling
Evading Collapse
The Double Nature of Fitness for Survival
Armbruster's Promise


Subject Headings