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spatial justice

The notion of spatial justice also informs the 1999 European Spatial Development Perspective (Dabinett 2010) which targets balanced and sustainable spatial development. But it is not exclusively jobs or factors directly related to job markets that are at issue, fairness requires that attention be paid to a variety of social needs which are oftentimes group specific (e.g. youth, elderly, persons with impaired mobility).

Critical analysis of existing cohesion policies and discourses is one major element of RELOCAL’s conceptualisation of spatial justice. One challenging aspect in this regard is linking the European Cohesion Policy debate more directly to ethical questions that have been raised in political and social theory regarding “fairness” and “justice” (see Dabinett 2010, McKay, Murray and MacIntyre 2102 and many others). One important source is Rawls’ (1971/1999) theory of justice according to which conditions of liberty, egalitarianism and procedural fairness can ensure the welfare of the most disadvantaged members of society. Rawls’ concept of justice concludes that political imperatives of liberty and equality can be arrived at as the “most rational choices” among all possible options. However, critics of Rawls argue that this theory remains a thought experiment, difficult to apply within the complex economic and political realities that condition social life. Henri Lefebvre’s (1968) defence of a universal “rights to the city”, for example, is clearly more radical in the sense that it is not simply equal access to resources that are at stake but a comprehensive transformation of the conditions of the urban life that perpetuate spatial inequalities.

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