The Just City.

AuthorReynolds, Richard C.
PositionBook review


Susan S. Fainstein

(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011),

224 pages.

A "just city," according to Susan Fainstein, professor of urban planning at Harvard, is "a city in which public investment and regulation would produce equitable outcomes rather than support those already well off." The Just City is an ambitious work that evinces the depth Fainstein brings to bear in articulating a vision for greater social justice within the context of urban planning. The idea for the book, which was conceived during her presentation at a 1994 conference celebrating the twentieth anniversary of David Harvey's Social Justice and the City, was conditioned by "neoliberal formulations" that have permeated urban-development discourse and hastened the rise of inequality in metropolitan areas in America and Europe for more than thirty years.

Drawing from the philosophy of John Rawls's seminal work, A Theory of Justice, and the "capabilities" approach of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, among others, Fainstein endeavors to devise a "normative framework" of criteria for evaluating what constitutes a just city. To this end, her theory of urban justice encompasses equity, democracy and diversity, and is a tool for assessing existing and future institutions and...

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