The Nature of Economies

A highly original look at the connection between economy and nature by one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century.


With The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs changed the way people think about cities. Her subsequent books have begun to change the way we think about life in general — not as an isolate system constructed of abstract principles, but as an organic and interdependent part of nature as a whole. Now, in The Nature of Economies, Jacobs proposes a radical notion that has a breathtaking common sense: economies are governed by the same rules as nature itself.

With the simplicity of an extremely wise and seasoned thinker, Jane Jacobs shows us that by looking to nature, by studying the principles we can witness in an egg, in a stand of redwoods, in a sunny but barren desert or in the tiny successes of a local bakery and the international successes of a silicon chip design, we can learn to foster economies that are both efficient and ecologically friendly. We’ll find that “economic life is ruled by processes and principles we didn’t invent and can’t transcend … and that the more we learn of these processes and the better we respect them, the better our economies will get along.”

The Nature of Economies is written in dialogue form: five intelligent friends discussing over coffee how economies work, and how systems found in nature can offer insight into economic development. The underlying question is both simple and profound, and the result is a wonderfully provocative, truly groundbreaking work by one of the great thinkers of our time.

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