City Volume 15 Issue 2 2011 [Doi 10.1080%2F13604813.2011.568719] Soja, Edward W. -- Response to Kurt Iveson- ‘Social or Spatial Justice Marcuse and Soja on the Right to the City’

September 20, 2017 | Author: Kaloy Cunanan | Category: Intellectual, Causality, Crime & Justice, Justice, Sociological Theories
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City Volume 15 Issue 2 2011 [Doi 10.1080%2F13604813.2011.568719] Soja, Edward W. -- Response to Kurt Iveson- ‘Social or ...


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Response to Kurt Iveson: ‘Social or Spatial Justice? Marcuse and Soja on the Right to the City’ Edward W. Soja Published online: 01 Jun 2011.

To cite this article: Edward W. Soja (2011) Response to Kurt Iveson: ‘Social or Spatial Justice? Marcuse and Soja on the Right to the City’, City: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action, 15:2, 260-262, DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2011.568719 To link to this article:

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CITY, VOL. 15, NO. 2, APRIL 2011

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Response to Kurt Iveson: ‘Social or Spatial Justice? Marcuse and Soja on the Right to the City’ Edward W. Soja My thanks to Kurt Iveson for dealing so sensitively and insightfully with the overlapping but different approaches to justice and the right to the city that Peter Marcuse and I have been developing in recent years. While our mutual interrogation about the social and political meaning of space may have peaked publicly in the Henri Lefebvre amphitheater at the University of Nanterre in 2008— almost at the exact site where the explosion of unrest in Paris was initiated 40 years earlier—we have been debating about space and justice well before the conference on Justice et Injustices Spatiales.1 Some additional background might help readers understand better our mutually supportive agreements and friendly differences. Our discussions of space and justice began soon after I joined the Urban Planning program at UCLA in 1972. At that time Peter, an accomplished lawyer, was a professor of Urban Planning at UCLA and had recently been appointed to the Regional Planning Commission of the County of Los Angeles. He had already begun a lifetime of thinking and writing about planning theory and the ethics of the planning profession. As a young, boisterous, almost obsessive geographer, I tried to convince Peter to add a significant spatial dimension to his critical and normative approaches to planning theory and practice. Always willing to listen, Peter would smile while making it clear that my arguments needed more careful honing to be accepted by his agile but always skeptical City: 10.1080/13604813.2011.568719 CCIT_A_568719.sgm 1360-4813 Taylor 2011 20Article 15 April [email protected] EdwardSoja 00000 Analysis 2011 & andFrancis (print)/1470-3629 Francis of Urban Trends (online)

legal mind. I was literally forced to rest my case but invited to try again. Peter was unlike any of my more academic colleagues, without a competitive ego (at least on the surface), politically and philosophically committed yet remarkably open to alternative viewpoints, a critical legal scholar of the highest caliber. Peter would leave UCLA several years after my arrival but we remained intermittently in contact and over the past 20 years our global circuits began to intersect in such places as Berlin, Berkeley, Heidelberg and Paris. Every chance I had, I tried different ways to convince Peter that space mattered much more than he would admit. Whether it was my argumentation, or the transdisciplinary resurgence of interest in space that has been occurring the past 15 years, or his renewed attachment to Lefebvre’s ideas about the right to the city (after all, le droit translates as both right and law in French), Peter clearly began to think differently about the meaning of space. Seeking the best way to put space into its proper intellectual and political place, Peter reached a new stage in his contribution to the 2008 conference and 2010 book on Justice et Injustices Spatiales, the focus of Iveson’s thoughtful paper. While recognizing some degree of spatial causality in aggravating injustices and accepting the need to address seriously the spatial aspects of how justice is formed and experienced, however, he continued to see the spatiality of justice as ‘derivative of social justice’ and ultimately a product of (nonspatial?) social, economic and political forces.

ISSN 1360-4813 print/ISSN 1470-3629 online/11/020260-03 © 2011 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2011.568719

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SOJA: RESPONSE TO KURT IVESON 261 I could end my response to Iveson’s paper here, with appreciation for how far Peter has come in his thinking about space. Social injustices always have a spatial aspect, he affirms, and insightfully identifies ‘involuntary confinement’ (e.g. forced segregation) and the unequal allocation/distribution of resources as primary forms of spatial injustice. With regard to seeking a more just city, mobilizing and organizing the deprived and alienated around the right to the city idea, and fostering the further development of critical urban studies, we overlap so much that our differences become far less important than our concurrences. But, as Iverson writes, some significant differences remain. From my view, for example, Peter is still captured by the long tradition of social historicism that has been particularly difficult to shake among the best radical thinkers and activists. Giving equal force and mutual causality to social and spatial processes, what I have called the socio-spatial dialectic, continues to trigger political and intellectual anxieties, a feeling that such spatializing goes too far and may open the door to reactionary forces, what I guess might be seen as false and politically divisive spatial consciousness. Peter Marcuse is such an outstanding social historicist scholar and lawyer, however, and so demanding of unquestionable evidence before changing his opinion on major philosophical issues, that I no longer feel capable of convincing him to go any further in his thinking about the spatiality of justice. Nevertheless, I do want to make one final attempt to convince Peter to expand his spatial imagination still further. My argument here revolves around the recent revival of the right to the city idea, especially in its original and more radical Lefebvrean form. As mentioned earlier, thinking about the right to the city as a means of achieving urban justice may partially explain why Peter has become more accepting, or perhaps it is less skeptical, about spatial causality and the spatiality of (in)justice. I wonder, however, whether it is possible to embrace and promote the right to

the city idea as Lefebvre originally presented it without also accepting Lefebvre’s unmitigated and uncompromising arguments about urban spatial causality and how society and space are mutually formative, with neither the social nor the spatial privileged over the other. It is worthwhile remembering that Lefebvre’s assertive spatial perspective and implicit critique of social historicism in the late 1960s and early 1970s triggered reactions from such radical thinkers as David Harvey and Manuel Castells that were remarkably similar to Peter’s current positioning: that the spatial is always derivative of the social, always partial in its causal effects, even slightly dangerous to over-emphasize, edging toward a kind of fetishism. For the then Althusserian Castells in The Urban Question (1972), Lefebvre represented the left-wing version of the Chicago School’s spatially determinative ideology, wherein ‘the city takes the place of explanation’. In the end, after praising Lefebvre’s urban and spatial insights, Harvey agreed with Castells in Social Justice and the City (1973) that Lefebvre may have gone too far in his spatializing. Interestingly enough, David Harvey’s recent embrace and promotion of the right to the city idea, as I discuss in detail in Seeking Spatial Justice, has built upon several brave if still cautious admissions that he may have been wrong in his earlier critiques of Lefebvre’s assertive spatial perspective. What I am implying here is that Peter Marcuse’s normative search for the just city, his version of critical urban studies and planning theory, and his continued privileging of social historicism make his work incompatible with Lefebvre’s assertively spatial version of the struggle over the right to the city. Peter is always able to use his legal skills to argue creatively around the edges of major philosophical and political ideas, but for him to advance the multiscalar struggles over the right to the city will require several steps further in the development of his critical spatial perspective. To say much more takes us back into my earlier discussions of ontology and the sociospatial dialectic. But enough is enough on

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CITY VOL. 15, NO. 2

this. To conclude, however, it is necessary to restate the core political argument of Seeking Spatial Justice. However one sees the relation between spatial and social justice, seeking specifically spatial justice can add new and interesting strengths and strategies to justice struggles of all kinds, and especially to the building of cohesive, lasting and innovative coalitions across divisive lines of class, race and gender. Thinking spatially will not solve all problems nor will it guarantee political success. The opposition can and does think spatially too, for there is nothing inherently progressive or radical about it. Seeking spatial justice takes nothing away from the search for social justice. It adds to it.

Note 1 1

Whether our co-presence in Paris added an east coast vs. west coast flavor to the proceedings is probably exaggerated, as was, by the way, the imposition of an east–west/grit–fluff division regarding Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur, the murdered gangsta rappers mentioned by Iveson. In addition, Peter and I are much too friendly, respectful and bicoastal to fit such an analogy.

Edward W. Soja is Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, and for many years was Centennial Visiting Professor in the Cities Programme, London School of Economics. Email: [email protected]

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