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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Towards the just city, 7 Dec 2010
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This review is from: The Just City (Hardcover)
Whilst the concept of justice in the city may be an ancient one the articulation of `the just city' as an objective of public policy is relatively new. It raises many questions. Is justice peculiarly urban or is there a uniquely urban justice and what role justice plays in the planning of the modern city. Fainstein's approach is overtly normative and argues that it is possible and desirable if not an ethical and moral imperative to seek the just city in our attempts to manage urban change and its consequences. It is by any standards a wide and fundamental concept but Fainstein sets some limits and avoids dealing with the implications of global environmental issues and climate change and seeking to apply her principles to emerging cities. Much of the first part of the book is taken up with a learned and extensive discussion of the nature of justice and its role in political thinking drawing on a critical review of Rawls and Harvey but also many other writers. She favours the capabilities approach to justice as developed by Sen and Martha Nussbaum. She concludes that justice is a valid criterion with which to judge urban policy and arrives at 4 questions, which to one a degree or another she attempts to answer. She critiques the development of city planning theory and points out that for the most part it is overly concerned with process rather than the substance of what is being done and hence seeks to persuade planners to move away from an obsession with economic development towards a greater concern with social equity. She examines the recent ( but not that recent)development paths of New York, London and Amsterdam in an attempt to trace the extent to which they exemplify the diverse social economic and political discourse around the just city. She reasserts her earlier contention that it is possible to define criteria that will lead to greater justice and rejects Harvey's revolutionary position. She offers a list of 7 `specific policies' calculated to achieve this ranging over housing, forced relocation during redevelopment, economic development projects and intracity transit. For those, accepting of the desirability and possibility of a just city, and seeking a practical programme to follow this list might be judged prosaic and ultimately disappointing. Her diagnosis implies that planning has been subverted from an ethical purpose to one that intentionally or not reinforces the inequalities of power and reward in urban society. There is no notion in these recommendations as to how those power structures can be persuaded to adopt the new more ethical norms. The prescription is curiously aspatial given that planning is sine qua non a spatial activity. It is interesting to compare this volume with another recent book on the same issue, 'Seeking Spatial Justice', by Edward Soja. He is scathing in his criticism of the paucity of spatial imagination in theory and practice. However even if these two approaches are combined they still fall some considerable way short of a practical programme for reinjecting planning with an ethical purpose and reorienting it towards the goal of greater equity. The definitive guide on spatial justice still has to be written.
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The Just City
The Just City by Susan S. Fainstein (Paperback - 28 July 2011)
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