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The passing of public intellectuals: Jane Jacobs and John Kenneth Galbraith

This has been a week of passing of two of the 20th century’s greatest public intellectuals. On Tuesday, April 25, Jane Jacobs passed at the age of 89. She wrote the seminal book on urban studies called “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” As the NY Times obituary said:

Her critique of the nation’s cities is often grouped with the work of writers who in the 1960’s shook the foundations of American society: Paul Goodman’s attack on schooling; Michael Harrington’s stark portrait of poverty; Ralph Nader’s barrage against the auto industry; and Malcolm X’s grim tour of America’s racial divide, among others. And it continues to influence a third generation of students.

Then on Saturday, April 29, John Kenneth Galbraith passed at the age of 97. (log in may be required) Galbraith, a liberal economist and diplomat, was an advisor to presidents from the 1930’s through the 1990’s and served as JFK’s ambassador to India. He wrote 33 books, including, “The Affluent Society” (1958) and updated/bookended it in 1996 with “The Good Society.”

These two thoughtful intellectuals will be sorely missed.

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