This weeks questions, in no particular order:
Its difficult for me to imagine concrete ways our society could structure its institutions and politics to, as Mustafa Dikec suggests in his article, Justice and the spatial imagination, "animate actions towards injustice embedded in space and spatial dynamics." Would the act of explicating an ideological discourse on the spatiality of injustice, informed by the two notions of the right of the city and the right to difference and resistance, simply be realized by the ability or right as a citizen to organize for struggle and resistance?
Or would it have to be manifested in the actual practice of struggle and resistance as citizens? As Lefebvre says, "is about living. Not thinking but being differently." This sounds a little too similar to the constant revolution of Mao's China. Am I off base here? Is struggle demanded as a right of citizenship or would the ability to critique suffice?
Would this argument be considered post structural since it appears to venerate diversity, or is the struggle at the urban level for the purpose of creating equality by erasing racial, religious, or ethnic divides?
1) Fainstein seems to conflate what she calls a 'poststructuralist viewpoint' with a liberal cry for diversity and acceptance of difference (precisely why she is able to call Marion Young a poststucturalist!) thus critiquing this perspective for privledging the oppressed and unfairly attacking suburbanites for "engaging in harmless acts that afford them enjoyment" (30). However, it seems to me that a poststructuralist (foucadian) critique of urban development might fit more with Young's activist position that emphasizes the role of power in structuring the very essence of the dialogue and avenues for diliberation. What, if any, are the connections between's Marion Young's activist and a poststructuralist analysis of social justice in the city? How are decision-making structures within the city limiting for deliberative approaches to social change? What positive commentary might a poststructuralist account bring to investigations of social justice in urban development?
1) Merrifield and Young bring up the role of discourse in politics, showing that terms of political discussion are constrained by the geneology of discourse, (i.e. what can be talked about is limited by what can be imagined which has been limited by how problems have been conceived and framed and discussed previously, usually lead by elites and media). For
Young, the activist is properly troubled by the limited range of options presented at the deliberation table. Merrifield, too, points out that in Liverpool, the options for redistribution of the housing budget were very narrow, because of previously existing economic constraints which have been developed ‘behind the backs’ of local residents. (p211) They can’t question those systems that they don’t even know are there. Though not in a discussion of discourse, Dikec contends that a ‘right to politics’ requires that people as the discourse-disrupting question, ‘not only “How are we to face a political problem?’ but ‘How are we to reinvent politics.’” (p1800) Perhaps I’m taking this out of context, but it seems to take that important step back from the commonsense (unconscious) constraints and make an effort to change the level and terms of political discussion. The outlier of the authors on this theme is Fainstein, who seems to “pragmatically” accept the given constraints and tries to formulate a Left program without upsetting the discursive apple cart. In her conclusion, she advocates focusing on improving “security” for the middle and working classes through “a general broadening of economic opportunity.” (p.39) She gives up on programs of redistribution in the face of “the anti-tax sentiment of the present age.” (p.38) This, for me, was a disappointing end to her discussion of how to combine the goals of equality, diversity and democracy. I think Dikec’s efforts to redefine equality (non-discrimination, p.1799), difference (the right to differ, p.1790) and freedom (non-constraint/non-repression, p.1799) is what is needed instead – perhaps a popular democratic movement could be created in favor of these re-defined ideas. Is Fainstein giving in to ‘pragmatic’ discursive constraints? Are Dikec’s redefinitions useful for not having to give up?
2) Finding ways to bridge differences is another theme. Many authors criticize Young’s earlier work for having such an emphasis on diversity and difference that it leads easily to divisiveness and “just us” (Merrifield) rather than justice. In her article for this week, she de-emphasizes diversity somewhat, but still highlights its importance for creating vibrant, fruitful urban political and social communication. Rather than accept the limits of the formal deliberative process, Young points out the important role of street communication and protest – theater, murals, satire, sit-ins, etc., and valorizes its inherent messiness. Other authors struggle a bit more to find the balance between difference and developing a common agenda. Merrifield points out the problems in Liverpool when so many different grassroots organization represent their particular population on a particular issue but can’t recognize or organize around mutual interests. Fainstein also points out several weaknesses of the ‘freedom and difference’ branch (post-structuralist) of social justice theory and chooses to de-emphasize (ignore?) the cultural fringes in favor of ‘the greatest good for the greatest number.’ What does the idea of “Egaliberte” (in Dikec) have to say about this problem? Let’s please discuss “egaliberte” - it’s quite interesting and I’m certain I don’t fully grasp the idea or its implications.
I was rather intrigued by the Young article. The "dialogue" I thought was pretty provocative and not being so well versed in the ideas of deliberative democracy, I found it quite interesting. I have a few questions:
a) As to the hegemonic discourses and false consensus, I was unclear as to whether she was suggesting that any actor, the idealized activist or anyone else can piece a hegemonic discourse, exposing the false consensus and introducing real alternatives. I think she is clear on how activists try to create "rupture," just not on how whether it is possible to be successful.
b) What does she mean when she says, "Certain activists concerned with specific areas of social life claim to identify such ideologies and hegemonic discourses. Their doing so in necessarily partial with respect to social problems and policy issues because ideology critique of this nature required considerable through and study…" (p. 687)? The first time I read it I figured she would claim that all truth is partial, but now I think she is suggesting that activists don't have the conceptual tools to identify such ideologies and discourses…which seems a little odd.
c) Finally, is there a role for academics in identification of these discourses? If so, does it differ from that of activists.
1) Both Harvey (2001) and Escobar (2001) emphasize the need to theorize how local social movements become broader politically and geographically. But while Harvey argues that local movements need to "transcend particularities" to emerge as a "more global if not universal" alternative political force, Escobar sees local movements that are "linked to place and their defense" as potential "challenges to capitalism and Eurocentered modernities". These two contrasting views are linked to the different epistemological approaches Harvey and Escobar identify with (dialectics vis-a-vis difference). How do they differ? And are they inconmesurable?
2) Harvey (2001), Mayer (1993), and Lustiger-Thaler and Shrage (1998) discuss how urban social movements have changed over the last several decades. One troubling phenomena (for me at least) has been the cooptation of grassroots movements by local and national governments. While I recognize that greater participation in government has given voice to these movements, at the same time they have lost their radical edge (e.g., squatting in West Germany, the urban left in Montreal). How is this phenomenon linked to neoliberalization?
1) Young's discussion of hegemonic discourses (pp. 685-689) as impediments to achieving the ideals of deliberative democracy brought to mind Peck and Tickell's comments that (I'm paraphrasing) neoliberalism sets the terms, the "axes," or the "common sense," for even the alternatives to neoliberalism. My questions:
a) Does Young's ideal-typical activist provide an approach to democratic political action that can potentially avoid this entanglement?
b) As we think about case study examples of resistance to neoliberalization, should we join Young in "keeping a distance from democratic practices in existing circumstances" (688)? In other words, should we look for cases of resistance that come closer to the ideal-typical activist, as opposed to networks and organizations that channel at least some of their political practices into existing institutions of "participatory democracy"?
c) Would the subversion of hegemonic discourses, such as neoliberalization, result in the potential for "undistorted communication" or "true consensus," as Young seems to imply? Or are there limitations to Young's apparent adoption of a model of language that can *communicate* pre-given interests, differences, and particularities in place of a model of language that *produces* these interests, differences, and particularities in the first place?
2) I was bothered by Fainstein's characterization of post-structuralism as focused primarily on a "celebration of difference," with difference understood as a diversity of particular groups. How do Merrifield and Dikec conceptualize difference? Do they offer alternative ways of thinking about difference than a diversity of particular identities? Do we have glimpses of ways of thinking about justice in these readings that don't involve transcending particularity to attain some kind of universal ideal, or do they all rely on this dichotomy?
1) After reading Fainstein (1997), I was left with several questions about her concluding thoughts. Specifically, I was bothered by her suggestion that "A movement for social justice, if it is to mobilize large numbers of people, must focus less on the protection of the most deprived and more on broad benefits, less on the rights of the oppressed and more on security" (38). She continued, "Most people would prefer economic growth, if any of it trickles down to them, to redistribution, if redistribution does not produce an improvement in their standard of living." While forms of redistribution are but one approach to achieving economic and social equality, is such a proposal too far divorced from the ideals and principles outlined in her article in so fundamental a way that she is no longer proposing a "movement for social justice"? Is her proposal too severely constrained by a neoliberal perspective?
2) Young (2001) reminded me of a question I had during last week's discussion: is (grassroots) change from within possible in a neoliberal regime? Given her discussion of the relationship between activism and deliberative democracy, is neoliberalism compatible with true deliberative democracy? What effect does scale have on the workings of and relationship between activism and deliberative democracy (do things function differently at a neighborhood/urban scale than at a national or supranational scale)?
1. How might Fainstein classify Dikec's approach? Would she see his work as similar to the kind of synthesis of political economy, post-structuralist, and urban populist approaches she is advocating?
2. What would Young, with her concern about hegemonic discourse (and concerns not only about inequality and exploitation but also domination as injustice), say to Fainstein's proposal (to not focus on redistribution, but create a policy that benefits the middle class as well as the most
I would like to spend some time looking at (or trying to understand) Escobar's definition of a network. He never explicitly states how he is using it, but then introduces it in his analysis of the case study. He describes them as self-organizing, non-linear, and non-hierarchical
meshworks. What does it mean to say that "the meaning of the politics of place can be found at the intersection of the scaling effects of networks and the strategies of the emergent identities"?.
Comments on Young article, Wk. 3, Larry Wright
It seems to me that deliberative democracy is not the answer to social injustice, however I do think that in some circumstances it can be employed to achieve limited goals. I think Young's presentation of ideal types makes it difficult to see how this might be the case. If we shift attention to 'actually existing' experiments in deliberative democracy we might be able to better assess the utility of such projects. For example, Fung and Wright (1999) looked at five deliberative-democratic projects and found that while the process was riddled with many of the problems she describes, positive outcomes did emerge. One reason the presentation of ideal types obscures the potential of deliberative democracy is because it's put forth as a static set of procedures rather than as an iterative process whereby citizens continually seek to identify problems, formulate solutions, and implement those solutions. Of course, Young would say that the whole process is a form of 'distorted communication' and therefore it doesn't matter how many times people come together to discuss issues important to them, their deliberations will inevitably reproduce inequality. I'd like to know what the rest of the class thinks - are we so mired in hegemony that we can't effectively confront issues of injustice by engaging one another?
All the authors seem to agree that we need to somehow celebrate difference while "translating what are multiple particular standpoints into a standard of objective validity to which a legitimately negotiated common value can be conferred" (Merrifield, 205).
Some focus on the problem of coming up with the "standard of objective validity", such as Fainstein's discussion of political economy vs. post-structuralism and urban populism. Others discuss the problem of finding a "common value", as in Merrifield's critique of Young's confidence in the power of "fusion" over "fission" (205), and his example of the deadlock in
Granby. And the issue of what is "legitimately negotiated" is a large part of Young's argument against deliberative democracy.
I agree with most of the authors that social justice movements are incredibly difficult, if not impossible to construct in this way, and I think Fainstein's support of a basically political-economic approach that focuses "less on the protection of the most deprived and more on broad benefits, less on the rights of the oppressed and more on security" (38) is the best suggestion so far because it actually has the chance of gaining widespread public support. Even Dikec, despite his post-modern approach to the process of the injustice of spatiality, seems to be advocating a political-economic approach by addressing property markets, urban policy, and planning laws (1801).
As far as Young is concerned, I don't think she makes a convincing argument for activism. First, she doesn't show that activism achieves results. Second, by choosing to engage in dialogue only with certain people, a person removes themselves from the sphere where the dialogue which does achieve results is taking place (even if under unfair conditions). I think this also can excuse activists from engaging with almost anyone, since one can use the label of an "illegitimate" forum or foundation of thought on anyone, even fellow activists.
So I guess my question is just whether people agree that the political-economic approach is the most promising, and if anyone can give some examples of successful social justice movements that came from a different approach, particularly one of activism.
1. How does empirical research inform theoretical formulations about social justice? What can we infer from the readings?
2.As a writing strategy, I thought, Young does a good job of using the deliberative democrat and the activist. But are we convinced that the role of an activist is to disrupt rather than to weave an argument? What other roles can we conceive?
3. Fainstein's essay seems to be meant more like a point of departure. Her critique of the three approaches for their vagueness on normative frameworks.
i). Justice as I understand it is itself a notion derived from liberal philosophical tradition.
The three frameworks she discusses do not necessarily belong to the liberal tradition. Could one argue that these frameworks are being stretched beyond their means to conceptualize justice ?
From John Champe
Is Young’s portrayal of the deliberative democrat fair, I don’t think it is how an “actual” one would describe themselves. We may care more about their ideology than how they see themselves, but I think her portrayal of the activist is more flattering and how one would describe themselves. Does this mean that Young is biased towards showing how much more realistic activists are than deliberators, or does it mean that activists are just more self-conscious and critical of both beliefs and the state of society? Young guesses that deliberators lack the ability to see ideologies and to see how the world is socially constructed (686); is this ultimately why we find them so dangerous?
If people are not only coming from positions of different ethnicities (e.g. Liverpool’s poor blacks, poor whites, capitalist whites, communist whites), different interest groups (environmentalists, Libertarians, Supply-side economists), and different classes (the disenfranchised and the elite), but people are also subscribing to different forms of political engagement (deliberative democrats, activists); then can we ever expect the people of a city to agree on anything? Or as previous authors we read argued, are we not worried with creating consensus, but only with opening up spaces for multiple voices, inclusive participation and radical critiques? Is the celebration of multiculturalism and political participation the means towards a greater end or an end in and of itself? (Merrifield argues against celebrating too much difference at the expense of commonality; Young argues that accepting difference can work against hegemony)