Tuesday, February 11, 2003

People, here are all the questions from the minnesota end of the class compiled and posted here.
This weeks questions, in no particular order:

From Tyler:

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?

From Amy:

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?

From Jen:

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.

From Moira:

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.

From Rafa:

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?


From Ryan:

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?

From Richard:

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)?

From Kristin:

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
marginalized)?

From Nancy:

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"?.

From Larry:

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?

From Laila:

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.

From Anant:
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)

SOCIAL JUSTICE AND THE CITY DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (MADISON GROUP)

Here is the collection of questions for this week’s readings and discussion. This first list of five is my attempt to boil the whole collection of questions into a short list of very general issues.

Personally, I think numbers 3 and 4 are the most pregnant and potentially interesting.

Tom Hove

1. How can theories of justice resolve the trade-off between providing rights, resources, and recognition for disadvantaged groups while not harming or coercing advantaged groups?

2. Is democratic deliberation through official channels and procedures always doomed to be co-opted by the dominant and the conservative? Is accusatory or confrontational activism “outside the official channels” necessary to promote radical change? Or will this kind of activism more likely inspire backlashes and intensify misunderstandings?

3. What can we reasonably expect THEORIES of justice to accomplish—either philosophically or politically? They can clarify the general issues at stake (within limits), but should they put the powerful, the wealthy, the exploitative, and the free-riders to shame and inspire specific kinds of action? How is it possible for a mere theory to perform the latter two tasks?

4. To what extent do the justice-related goals of social recognition (i.e., of “difference”) and economic redistribution (a) go hand-in-hand, (b) work at cross purposes to each other, or (c) have nothing to do with each other? (See Nancy Fraser’s writings on this issue.)

5. If a notion of justice is to have any practical, local influence, must it appeal to lofty ideals like altruism, solidarity, and egalitarianism, or should it appeal to the more self-interested concerns of those in power? If the latter, what would be wrong with that?

THE COMPLETE COLLECTION OF QUESTIONS FOLLOWS. (And I apologize for any misspellings of names or accidental omissions below.)

Max Grinnell

1. In several of the articles, there is some discussion of the notion of “equality of opportunity”, a concept which is worthy of examination. Its seems to me that equality of opportunity is an admirable goal, but I am wondering if some of these authors (and the broader discourse about inequality in human societies, etc) are in fact arguing for an equality of outcomes. For myself, I think this type of “endgame” is almost impossible, as an equality of outcomes would require some type of modified communitarian society (rotating job positions, shared ownership of large consumer goods, etc, etc.), which would probably be impossible at a large scale, though maybe not. That being said, I think this equality of opportunity concept is something I definitely support, though in practice it seems very difficult. Of course there are already some of these type of programs in place in the States (Affirmative Action, etc) but I am wondering what other alternatives or complementary programs we might be able to devise as we ruminate over these problems. One thing I have been thinking about is some type of mentorship program that would enhance social networks between geographically marginalized individuals….I hate to bring this up, but there might have to be some incentive for people to participate…perhaps a small tax break for mentors? I’m not sure, but I’d like to hear others suggestions from others in the seminar.

2. Many (if not all of the authors) express a great deal of well-founded skepticism about the ability of localized community empowerment/organizing movements to jump scales (i.e. local grassroots efforts transforming inequalities as a result of structural changes in the economy, etc.) But jumping ahead, and thinking more about networks, there have been some successful attempts in this regard, i.e. civil rights movement in the South, spreading through social/political networks and more recently, the ACORN organization. What might the necessary conditions be for such a local movement to jump scale? I would think that the improved communications technologies, such as websites, email might facilitate this process, while conversely, limited access to other media, such as television/radio (due to economic constraints, lack of funding) might be equally restrictive to their efforts.

Maureen McLachlan

I felt that some of the arguments in this week's readings were circular and applied a theory as quickly as it was criticized without any attempt at resolution. I thought one underlying theme that shown throughout, but was never really dealt with, was that of "whose justice?" In all of these, there was a theme that the oppressed should have rights and justice, and I would tend to agree, but isn't that at the expense of the rights and interests of someone else even if they are perceived "included"?

As for the activist and deliberative democrat, I felt that Young did eventually admit that the two can run a course back and forth and that they weren't mutually exclusive, but still, if the activist is not interested in engaging in discussion, how will he exact change? Poems and songs may pique the interest of people, but will it deal with the issues that are up for debate?

Mike Fleenor

1. The Urban Social Justice readings prove problematic. Except for Harvey, I do not get the sense that any of the authors or those they comment upon know the inside of a tenement dwelling, sweatshop, homelessness, the violence of poverty, or the despair of dead-end jobs other than through interviews with social workers, citing newspaper accounts, and reading theory. These people define the Other, tell the Other that they are oppressed, enforce the terms of engagement and "solutions", and continually beg the question concerning "the quest of bringing oppressed people together." When I go out and talk to law enforcement, social service agency personnel, and those whom both say they "help", I get three very different discourses. For the most part, many on the streets and living in poverty merely seek a stability within which to make their own improvements. Many of these look within their own community and often get better results than 'outsider' "solutions"--and this menta
lity Merrifield criticizes. In short, do we of the educational elite find ourselves offended when our own notions of social justice and theories of such are rejected at the street level? Please be aware that many on the streets and in poverty see Us as members of a white privilege they resoundingly reject--especially in light of our attending the University of Wisconsin or Minnesota. Many on the streets view us, regardless of our intentions, as the enemy other. As far as they are concerned, we have no 'street-smarts' and 'book-smarts' alone does not even begin to address their concerns. Many also would tell us that the issues are not so much economic as they are educational. The list goes on and on. So, whose social justice and on whose terms?

2. In Madison, Wisconsin, many planners, social workers, and others often refer to South Park Street or the south side of Madison as an area of drugs, poverty, and an area beset with many other problems. Yet, many living in that same area--while acknowledging certain economic deprivations--see a vibrant community of Afro-American, immigrant Asian-American, Hispanic, Chicano/a, and Latino/a residents. A walk through this area reveals an increasingly thriving community of Asian grocery stores next to Afro-Am businesses next to businesses serving the Spanish-speaking community--including a new Spanish speaking radio station. Go to Liquid Lyrics Lounge on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night and there you will find a crowd as diverse as any Madison has to offer while listening/dancing to Reggae, Blues, Jazz, Salsa, and the music of the world. Yes, many residents admit problems, but they are very weary of White Madison saying they are blighted and in need of help. Too often
they have heard promises of economic aid then feel the betrayal of "sorry, the funds got cut." So they achieve their own sense of social justice without the help of White Liberals. All the groups have much to show and one would not believe the pride in their neighborhoods. Madison is missing a great opportunity in a most diverse and vibrant area of Madison. Suggestion: Go into their COMMUNITIES, talk to them. Let them tell you their stories. Then decide if mere theoretical readings of social justice in the city suffice.

Dawn Biehler

Regarding footnote #8 in the Fainstein piece as well as thinking back to
the Keil piece last week: Does the work of Neil Smith and Roger Keil
suggest that we really need to question the incommensurability of the
typological categories Fainstein sets up (and, to be fair, that she also
admits are oversimplified)? Are they oversimplified to the point where
they are cartoonish? Also, for each category, the approach's virtue is
its vice, and its vice its virtue.

Jesse Norris

1. Within the various discussions of politics and difference, at least one of the authors refers to the idea that elites intentionally foster conflicts across difference so as to make united opposition to their power unlikely . But does this take place- and if so, how exactly?
2. If the "dark side" does indeed strategically foster racism and such, how does it figure in to the neoliberal project? That is, is the latter inextricably tied, or even significanlty constituted by, processes of racialization (or gender-ing, etc.)? More practically (and methodologically) speaking, how might we speak of intention without sounding vulgar or conspiratorial? Or is intention not quite what we're after?

Todd Courtenay

I guess my thoughts for this weeks discussion thus far can be summed up as a couple of question/comments with an overall question at the end. These seem a bit broad and perhaps unanswerable and useless, dealing with the larger philosophical juxtapositions that both delineate and derail humanity's struggle for humanity; but then again, uncovering the conditions and remedies for social (in)justice seem to lend themselves to these larger abstract discussions - pursuing, in more elaborate terms, various answers to the question of why can't we figure out how to live together equally and democratically, and what methods are most apt for steering the ship in the right direction. Interesting discussions, but in the eyes of this pessimist, ultimately unanswerable and inconclusive. So...

1.'Openess to unassimilated otherness' is offered as the environmental condition (artificially created Petri dish?) in which democratic yet diverse social justice can flourish; yet serious questions arise as to whether or not this formula is historically durable or even plausible. Larger narratives of cultural and economic globalization, as well as political structures in general, appear to expound themes of homogenization; which can then be theoretically applied to dialogues between various social agendas. Is homogenization a natural social, cultural, and political process, wherein the positionality of distinct counter views and agendas are continually fighting centripetal forces? In other words, are dialogues of the left sentenced to inevitably become an unmediated potpourri of all alternative agendas - union rights/marijuana legalization/welfare reform/election reform/affordable housing/affirmative action/education/gay rights/nuclear disarmament/minimum wage/environmental
ism/etc.?

2.On the other hand, many times failure of social justice agendas has been traced not to uncommunicative homogeneity but rather to a prevalence of the opposite - irrational entrenchment. In this case, individual groups seem to form a 'monopoly over oppression and victimhood' where the specific agenda, in essence, becomes a producer of identity for the specific group, thereby making the larger 'logical' issue at hand unnecessarily encumbered by, and restricted to, specific identities of class, race, or gender. Merrifield's piece on race politics in the inner city mirrors this problem, which can also be seen within environmental realm, where often left and right will not work together on an issue for fear of being associated with one another. How real is this problem of entrenchment to social change?

So, after all the inane babble my question is: Given the pull of these two poles on social movements, what real structures and practices can be used to mitigate and avoid these traps to social justice agendas?

Landy Sanchez

1. All the readings emphasize the relevance of local movements (activism) in challenging the prevalent discourses about the city as a way to question actual urban policies, or more generally, social inequalities. It seems to me that local campaigns are “successful” as long as they show that something that appears as a “particular” problem (for an ethnic group, neighborhood or religious group) is actually a “common” problem either because is expression of a problem share by many (e.g. unemployment, poverty or discrimination), or because it potentially affects the whole urban life. To some extent, the emphasis on general issues could reduce the visibility of claims about the right to be different. Is there a trade-off between both strategic logics? What are the bases to combine them? Does a political ethics (as proposed by Dikec) or a general theory of justice provide the ground to resolve political (“pragmatic”) decisions?

2. I found interesting Young’s article about deliberative democracy and activism as two differing approaches to political action. However, I think it doesn’t pay enough attention to the complementariness between both approaches. For example, alliances with labor organizations or political parties seem to be relevant to expand the scope and scale of local movements; at the same time, activist movements have transformed large organization agenda, and more generally, political debates. Therefore, I wonder about the advantages and risks of collaborative efforts between actors with different approaches?

Brenda Parker

1.) How do we think about social justice that protects
and incorporates both individual and group/cultural
perspective? To ignore the first is to ignore how
power relations are inherent in groups and often
justified in culture (e.g. subordination of women or
those with disabilities as cultural practice). At the
same time, to ignore the latter seems reductivist in
its assumptions about free, rational, liberal actors
floating in identity-less, placeless, timeless space.

2.)While I don't think we need to subject social
justice positions to a popularity contest, I think
Fainstain raises an important point about the
amenability of particular viewpoints to the
public-at-large. If we are concerned with leveraging
our will towards achievable goals, can we shift the
discourse so that concern for the marginilized is part
of the public discourse? Must we start with more
populist, leftie-lite projects in cities?

Claudia Hanson Thiem

On the urbanization of social justice:
Does the urban produce particular obstacles or opportunities for the pursuit of social justice. Several of the readings establish cities (as products of capitalist dynamics) as producers of injustice, but its not clear how specifically urban processes are implicated in social justice struggles. Relatedly, is the ?right to the city? a specifically urban vision of social justice?

On coalitions:
Do we have examples of coalitions of diverse groups engaged in social justice work? How have groups pursuing different tactics (deliberative/activist), goals (economic equality, diversity, democracy), etc. interacted on the ground? Are there examples of model coalitions? How have they managed conflicting priorities and the inevitable compromises? Can we paint neoliberalism (slippery beast that it is) as the common enemy?

On community:
Following the previous question...What is the potential for using community (territorially defined) as a source of solidarity in the pursuit of social justice? Does this simply substitute parochialism for the above disagreements? Does it limit the effectiveness of wider (less local) networks?


Monday, February 10, 2003

Questions for Social Justice (also emailed to Moira)
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)
Dear All,
I was looking for the questions to read tonight, since I have meetings all morning tomorrow. I suggest that everyone posts the questions on Monday night, so that faculty and students have a chance to read them before the seminar.
Best,
Helga
Comments on Young article, Wk. 3, Larry Wright

It seems to me that deliberative democracy is not the anwer 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, formualte 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?