Social Justice and the City

Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation Series

Book 1
University of Georgia Press
2
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Throughout his distinguished and influential career, David Harvey has defined and redefined the relationship between politics, capitalism, and the social aspects of geographical theory. Laying out Harvey's position that geography could not remain objective in the face of urban poverty and associated ills, Social Justice and the City is perhaps the most widely cited work in the field.

Harvey analyzes core issues in city planning and policy--employment and housing location, zoning, transport costs, concentrations of poverty--asking in each case about the relationship between social justice and space. How, for example, do built-in assumptions about planning reinforce existing distributions of income? Rather than leading him to liberal, technocratic solutions, Harvey's line of inquiry pushes him in the direction of a "revolutionary geography," one that transcends the structural limitations of existing approaches to space. Harvey's emphasis on rigorous thought and theoretical innovation gives the volume an enduring appeal. This is a book that raises big questions, and for that reason geographers and other social scientists regularly return to it.

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For over forty years, David Harvey has been one of the world's most trenchant and critical analysts of capitalist development. In The Enigma of Capital, he delivers an impassioned account of how unchecked neoliberalism produced the system-wide crisis that now engulfs the world. Beginning in the 1970s, profitability pressures led the capitalist class in advanced countries to shift away from investment in industrial production at home toward the higher returns that financial products promised. Accompanying this was a shift towards privatization, an absolute decline in the bargaining power of labor, and the dispersion of production throughout the developing world. The decades-long and ongoing decline in wages that accompanied this turn produced a dilemma: how can goods--especially real estate--sell at the same rate as before if workers are making less in relative terms? The answer was a huge expansion of credit that fueled the explosive growth of both the financial industry and the real estate market. When one key market collapsed--real estate--the other one did as well, and social devastation resulted. Harvey places today's crisis in the broadest possible context: the historical development of global capitalism itself from the industrial era onward. Moving deftly between this history and the unfolding of the current crisis, he concentrates on how such crises both devastate workers and create openings for challenging the system's legitimacy. The battle now will be between the still-powerful forces that want to reconstitute the system of yesterday and those that want to replace it with one that prizes social justice and economic equality. The new afterword focuses on the continuing impact of the crisis and the response to it in 2010. One of Huffington Post's Best Social and Political Awareness Books of 2010 Winner of the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize for 2010 Praise for the Hardcover: "A lucid and penetrating account of how the power of capital shapes our world." --Andrew Gamble, Independent "Elegant... entertainingly swashbuckling... Harvey's analysis is interesting not only for the breadth of his scholarship but his recognition of the system's strengths." --John Gapper, Financial Times
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Publisher
University of Georgia Press
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Published on
Apr 15, 2010
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Pages
356
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ISBN
9780820336046
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
Social Science / Human Geography
Social Science / Sociology / Urban
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The worldwide financial crisis has sent shock-waves of accelerated economic restructuring, regulatory reorganization and sociopolitical conflict through cities around the world. It has also given new impetus to the struggles of urban social movements emphasizing the injustice, destructiveness and unsustainability of capitalist forms of urbanization. This book contributes analyses intended to be useful for efforts to roll back contemporary profit-based forms of urbanization, and to promote alternative, radically democratic and sustainable forms of urbanism.

The contributors provide cutting-edge analyses of contemporary urban restructuring, including the issues of neoliberalization, gentrification, colonization, "creative" cities, architecture and political power, sub-prime mortgage foreclosures and the ongoing struggles of "right to the city" movements. At the same time, the book explores the diverse interpretive frameworks – critical and otherwise – that are currently being used in academic discourse, in political struggles, and in everyday life to decipher contemporary urban transformations and contestations. The slogan, "cities for people, not for profit," sets into stark relief what the contributors view as a central political question involved in efforts, at once theoretical and practical, to address the global urban crises of our time.

Drawing upon European and North American scholarship in sociology, politics, geography, urban planning and urban design, the book provides useful insights and perspectives for citizens, activists and intellectuals interested in exploring alternatives to contemporary forms of capitalist urbanization.

The culmination of a critical study of neo-pragmatism philosophy and its application to planning, Dialogical Planning in a Fragmented Society begins with philosopher Stanley M. Stein's examination of neo-pragmatism and his thoughts on how it can be useful in the field of environmental design—specifically, how it can be applied to planning procedures and problems.

Neo-pragmatism is an approach that has been, in the past, best expressed or implied in the writing of Hilary Putnam, Richard Rorty, and, in particular, Donald Davidson, John Rawls, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Thomas L. Harper furthers this tradition by providing the context for this theoretical application from his academic background in economics and management as well as his practical experience with political decision-making processes, community planning, and economic development.

The result is a fresh synthesis of ideas—a new approach to thinking about planning theory and its implications for, and relationship with, practice. Philosopher Michael Walzer has asserted that "philosophy reflects and articulates the political culture of its time, and politics presents and enacts the arguments of philosophy." Similarly, the authors view planning theory as planning reflected upon in tranquility, away from the tumult of battle, and planning practice as planning theory acted out in the confusion of the trenches. Each changes the other in a dynamic way, and the authors demonstrate the intimate and inextricable link between them.

For much of the twentieth century improvement in the situation of disadvantaged communities was a focus for urban planning and policy. Yet over the past three decades the ideological triumph of neoliberalism has caused the allocation of spatial, political, economic, and financial resources to favor economic growth at the expense of wider social benefits. Susan Fainstein's concept of the "just city" encourages planners and policymakers to embrace a different approach to urban development. Her objective is to combine progressive city planners' earlier focus on equity and material well-being with considerations of diversity and participation so as to foster a better quality of urban life within the context of a global capitalist political economy.

Fainstein applies theoretical concepts about justice developed by contemporary philosophers to the concrete problems faced by urban planners and policymakers and argues that, despite structural obstacles, meaningful reform can be achieved at the local level. In the first half of The Just City, Fainstein draws on the work of John Rawls, Martha Nussbaum, Iris Marion Young, Nancy Fraser, and others to develop an approach to justice relevant to twenty-first-century cities, one that incorporates three central concepts: diversity, democracy, and equity. In the book's second half, Fainstein tests her ideas through case studies of New York, London, and Amsterdam by evaluating their postwar programs for housing and development in relation to the three norms. She concludes by identifying a set of specific criteria for urban planners and policymakers to consider when developing programs to assure greater justice in both the process of their formulation and their effects.

Liberty and freedom are frequently invoked to justify political action. Presidents as diverse as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush have built their policies on some version of these noble values. Yet in practice, idealist agendas often turn sour as they confront specific circumstances on the ground. Demonstrated by incidents at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, the pursuit of liberty and freedom can lead to violence and repression, undermining our trust in universal theories of liberalism, neoliberalism, and cosmopolitanism.

Combining his passions for politics and geography, David Harvey charts a cosmopolitan order more appropriate to an emancipatory form of global governance. Political agendas tend to fail, he argues, because they ignore the complexities of geography. Incorporating geographical knowledge into the formation of social and political policy is therefore a necessary condition for genuine democracy.

Harvey begins with an insightful critique of the political uses of freedom and liberty, especially during the George W. Bush administration. Then, through an ontological investigation into geography's foundational concepts space, place, and environment he radically reframes geographical knowledge as a basis for social theory and political action. As Harvey makes clear, the cosmopolitanism that emerges is rooted in human experience rather than illusory ideals and brings us closer to achieving the liberation we seek.

In 1996, the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union, a grassroots advocacy organization, won a historic legal victory against the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority. The resulting consent decree forced the MTA for a period of ten years to essentially reorient the mass transit system to better serve the city’s poorest residents. A stunning reversal of conventional governance and planning in urban America, which almost always favors wealthier residents, this decision is also, for renowned urban theorist Edward W. Soja, a concrete example of spatial justice in action.

In Seeking Spatial Justice, Soja argues that justice has a geography and that the equitable distribution of resources, services, and access is a basic human right. Building on current concerns in critical geography and the new spatial consciousness, Soja interweaves theory and practice, offering new ways of understanding and changing the unjust geographies in which we live. After tracing the evolution of spatial justice and the closely related notion of the right to the city in the influential work of Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey, and others, he demonstrates how these ideas are now being applied through a series of case studies in Los Angeles, the city at the forefront of this movement. Soja focuses on such innovative labor–community coalitions as Justice for Janitors, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, and the Right to the City Alliance; on struggles for rent control and environmental justice; and on the role that faculty and students in the UCLA Department of Urban Planning have played in both developing the theory of spatial justice and putting it into practice.

Effectively locating spatial justice as a theoretical concept, a mode of empirical analysis, and a strategy for social and political action, this book makes a significant contribution to the contemporary debates about justice, space, and the city.

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