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07920067

PEP 40090

Assignment 2

Fainstein has criticised communicative and collaborative theories


of planning. The alternative she puts forward is the just city model
(Fainstein, 2000, Fainstein, 2006). Discuss the strengths and
weaknesses of this approach for planning theory and practice.
Susan Fainsteins Just City Model represents a clean break in planning theory from the extremism,
dogma and futility of other recent models. The Model is a normative framework of planning with a
multi-faceted definition of urban justice at its heart. This paper starts with the objections Fainstein
has to Communicative Planning theory, before discussing the Rawlsian theory of justice and how it
informs the Just City Model, and evaluates the Models strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, the
paper concludes very positively that the model is normatively sound and finds strength in its
accessibility, and predicts that Fainsteins aim of triggering a change in planning consciousness will be
somewhat achieved.
***
First we shall deal briefly with communicative and planning theories. Such theories were developed
in reaction to the widely perceived inadequacies of modernist and rational planning particularly the
failure of instrumental rationality to produce better outcomes than previous planning approaches and
solve the increasingly complex social challenges that its proponents and government had boldly
boasted it could conquer. Communicative Planning did not abandon modernism (Allmendinger 2002,
pp.181-184), nor did it shift the focus of planning theory to what Webber called the object of planning:
that is, the outcomes of the planning process (Webber 1963, cited in Taylor 1998, p.66).
The theory of Communicative Planning has been derived from Habermas work on the public
sphere and ideal speech. Based on the ideal speech that occurs between individuals on a daily basis
fulfilling the validity claims of comprehensibility, truth, sincerity and legitimacy communicative
theory holds that a body of people are able to come to an honest consensus through deliberation and
collaboration. This inspires the normative ideal of communicative planning: to establish and operate
a participatory planning system which invites engagement from all and builds an understanding
between citizens. In such a theoretical model, communicative rationality replaces instrumental
rationality and discourse becomes more inclusive of ideas and arguments that are not backed by
power (Allmendinger 2002, pp. 185-187). Taylor (1998, pp.123-125) indicates that the ideal speech
validity claims can be used to measure the worth of any participatory process. Above all else, the
communicative and collaborative approach to planning seeks to build a participatory process in which

Colm Maguire

MRUP 1: Planning, Society & Diversity

all participants understand and have empathy for one another, and in which the difference in power
and influence between voices is equalised.
Fainstein has three major criticisms of this model. The first is its failure to consider the object of
planning and concentration instead on the meaning of language, following the philosophical retreat
from what she calls things people really care about (Fainstein, 2011).
Instead of asking about what is to be done about cities and regions, communicative
planners typically ask what planners should be doing, and the answer is that they
should be good (i.e., tell the truth, not be pushy about their own judgements) the
concern of communicative planning theory has become subjective interpretation
rather than the identification of causes, constraints, and substantive outcomes (see
Campbell and Fainstein 1996).
(Fainstein 2000, pp.455-456: the reference is that which is cited therein)
For Fainstein, the communicative theory is ignoring what planning is about: outcomes. Fainsteins
second major criticism of communicative theory is that it ignores problems of pluralism and
deliberative democracy, such as what to do when open processes produce unjust results (Ibid., p.457).
As this paper outlines below, Fainstein sees flaws in democracy and does not believe in its primacy. In
Communicative Planning, the deliberative democratic structure and the rules of the deliberation are
the key requirements for planning, but for Fainstein, this is a nave and inadequate practice.
Fainsteins third criticism of communicative planning concerns its rejection of instrumental
rationality. Fainstein and Campbell (2003, pp.10) see Communicative Planning as limiting the role of
the Planner, and forgoing what can and usually is a fruitful evidence-based study of a plan (Fainstein
2000, p.457). Forester (2013) likewise appeals to planners to balance communication and
participation with actual evidence-based instrumental rationality.
In so far as Fainstein has rejected the Communicative approach to planning, she has also rejected
postmodernism, new urbanism (mainly for its concentration on the aesthetic and repetition of the
mistakes of rational comprehensive planning) and neoliberalism. Fainstein has spent many years on
an interventionist, egalitarian, pluralist model of urban justice, which seeks not only to build a
normative framework for planning, but to mobilise planners against runaway inequality.
***
This paper shall devote much attention to the definition of justice and the concepts that have informed
the Just City Model. This is necessary because of the centrality of justice (and Fainsteins definition of
it) to the Just City Model.

Colm Maguire

MRUP 1: Planning, Society & Diversity

What type of justice are we attempting to define? Perhaps with the exception of New Right
authors on planning, the concentration of recent planning theory has been on a progressive concept
of social justice (Campbell and Marshall 2002, Campbell and Fainstein 2003, Fainstein 2003, Fischer
2009, Friedmann 2000, Harvey 2009, Sandercock 1998). That is to say, not a right-wing concept of
social justice, in which the activity of a free market is considered to be the best method of enacting
the appropriate distribution of benefits and burdens of social cooperation, but a concept of social
justice that focuses on a normative framework in which the collective good is raised above the
individual.
John Rawls work on a theory of justice is a standard starting point to consider what might be an
appropriate model of social justice in planning this is quite apart from the fact that it is also a major
influence on the Just City model. The universality, individualism, and rationalism that are characteristic
to the theory have seen it have a major effect on political philosophy and the social sciences. The last
definition by Rawls of his two principles of justice reads as follows:
(a) Each person has the same indefeasible claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal
basic liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme of liberties for all;
and
(b) Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: first, they are to be
attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of
opportunity; and second, they are to be to the greatest benefit of the leastadvantaged members of society (the difference principle).
(Rawls & Kelly 2001, p.42)
Set in the western liberal tradition, Rawls theory concentrates on the individuals rights within society.
The central premise is that all competent individuals would choose the above principles as principles
for organising society when situated in the original position behind the veil of ignorance not
knowing what their place in society will be.
For Rawls, a just society would operate according to these two principles, and inequality in
particular would have to be justified by the difference principle. Rawls has been criticised for his
concentration only on the distribution of primary goods - excluding, for instance, healthcare (Sen
1992) and his definition of equality as only concerning the material (Fainstein 2009, p.25).
Nevertheless, Fabre (2007, p.5) describes this as a radical view for its requirement that inequality,
rather than equality, be justified.
There are several problems with Rawls veil of ignorance thought experiment when trying to
apply it to the practical arena of planning. It takes place at a conceptual moment of equality, in which

Colm Maguire

MRUP 1: Planning, Society & Diversity

the individual has nothing to defend (Arguably this is how Rawls is able to reverse the usual argument
about justifications for the restriction of rights to ensure a more equal outcome). Planners will never
find themselves in the Rawlsian original position (Campbell & Marshall 2006, p.246 and Fainstein 2009,
p.28), nor will any stakeholder. Speaking practically on the difference principle, a suggestion that
someone be stripped of their possession or privilege (be it monetary or other) simply because they
are not justified in having it would be challenged and further justification sought. The difference
principle is thus more likely to be stated with a reversal of its terms: Restrictions on rights in the
pursuit of equality must satisfy the condition that they prevent situations that disadvantage the leastadvantaged members of society. This is a much weaker sentence, a much weaker and more flexible
definition of a principle, and very open to interpretation, and thus why it is likened to the vaguer
concept of public interest maligned among some planning theorists who believe it to be useless
(Campbell & Marshall 2002, p.173).
The difference principle is open to criticism from Marxists and moderates, who say
respectively that it is not radical enough or too radical. For Harvey (2009, pp.41-42), the rights
described in Rawls two principles will mostly be applied selectively to the advantage of the dominant
social powers of the territorial state and capital, and the difference principle only confirms notions
of rights inherent in the market and in bourgeois society. For Harvey the difference principles
limitation on inequality is no different from the capitalist justification for inequality: that growth
benefits all more than egalitarian distributions do (Ibid, Cole 2008).
On the contrary, Anderson (1999, pp.313 & 326-327) believes the difference principle too
extreme, defining a just order as a social order in which persons stand in relations of equality, have
access to social freedom and are protected from social oppression. Social Oppression can come about
in situations of financial equality, but it is also likely to increase in scale in societies that so unequal
that individuals can enjoy a higher status and influence over public decisions (Anderson cites elections,
but planning decisions would surely apply here as well). Thus Anderson is calls for a restriction on the
aims of egalitarians: seeking to equalise human relations and standings rather than outcomes, with a
social floor and a prevention of dangerous levels of inequality.
Sen and Nussbaum reject the Rawlsian perception of equality and justice, based on material
goods, in favour of the Capabilities Approach (Maffettone 2011, p.119 and Sen 2000, cited in Fainstein
2009). They define freedom as having the ability to live life in the way we want through access to
various opportunities and in so doing have the choice to fulfil our capabilities (or not).

Colm Maguire

MRUP 1: Planning, Society & Diversity

That which Anderson calls democratic equality and others call sufficientism (Fabre 2007) brings
Justice as a concept closer not only to the status quo but also to the interventionist view of the
relationship between justice and planning. The Capabilities Approach expresses equality in terms that
can be more realistically applied as part of an interventionist normative framework of planning.
Fainstein utilises such theory in the development of the Just City model. For Fainstein, Rawls
justification for equality as a rational approach to ordering such a framework serves as an adequate
basis for developing a normative framework for the Just City (Fainstein 2009, pp. 25-26).
Fainstein (2010, cited in Bontje 2011, Lake 2014, The Just City 2011 & Zukin 2012) charts a path
between sufficientism and the capabilities approach in the development of an urban theory of
Justice (Bontje 2011, p.595). For Fainstein (2009, pp.31-33), there are three foundations for a just
social order: equity, diversity and democracy. There is a natural tension between the three (Lake 2014,
p.359), and diversity and democracy are both problematic in that they can have unjust outcomes.
Fainsteins concept of equity applies at a communitarian level and she differentiates it as equity
among groups from an equality of individuals (Fainstein 2009, p.29). Though a critic of the
communitarian school (Fainstein 1990, cited in Fainstein 2000, p.464), Fainstein warns that a
concentration on the individual leads to utilitarian cost-benefit analyses that focus on aggregates of
individuals (Fainstein 2006, p.29). Justice in the urban space requires that a great multitude of urban
possibilities that favour equity are realised (useable public spaces, accessible buildings, environmental
protection, community solidarity). It is clear that Fainsteins concept of urban justice is entrenched in
the practical; the multi-faceted experience of life, work and leisure in the city. Her reasoning for
rejecting aggregates of individuals is clear as well equality before the law and financial
compensation for enforced inequality (such as disability) simply wont provide a just outcome in an
urban environment, in which the quality of life is so linked to the quality of our surroundings and our
ability to interact with that environment, to pursue opportunities within it.
Equity for Fainstein is the bedrock of an urban justice. The other two foundations are
considerably more problematic: Diversity can lead to rivalry and thus further social oppression both
for the intolerant and those they are intolerant of (Fainstein 2005, p.16). This is a most interesting
suggestion from a progressive, its focus appearing to be on the minimisation of everyday discomfort
or conflict that could affect quality of life, economic vitality and more. There is also a rejection of
planned diversity the use of heterogeneity to produce homogeneity, such as in the new urbanism.
Such homogenous areas, devoid of cultural or income clusters may, in trying to foster a multicultural
community, instead foster an area devoid of community or understanding (Fainstein 2000, pp.464-

Colm Maguire

MRUP 1: Planning, Society & Diversity

465). Fainstein instead advocates for differentiated solidarity, clustering of ethnic and income
groups with fuzzy boundaries and shared public spaces and amenities.
The third pillar of Fainsteins justice is democracy, but unlike the communicative theorists, she
firmly places democracy second in importance to equity, and has stated that where equity and
democracy conflict, equity should trump democracy (Fainstein 2011). Nonetheless, the importance
of democracy still unquestionable in the Just City: but rather than the majoritarian democracy that
can sometimes be the norm, the Just City requires a supportive consensus, or at least a broad
acceptance, of the first two principles, in particular equity. For Fainstein this is a tough consensus to
build in an unequitable society, but an easy one to maintain once equity has been broadly
implemented. The problem of course is that the middle and upper classes will not happily pay more
into the public purse without seeing the benefits around them, and risking their own powerful
position. Fainstein (2000, p.469) warns that democratic pluralism, with its emphasis on group process
and compromise, offers little likelihood of escape from dominance by those groups with greatest
access to organizational and financial resources. Thus, a proposed tax increase in a low-tax
inequitable society is likely to meet with more resistance than in an already-high tax, equitable one.
One solution for Fainstein is to ensure that programmes that pursue greater equity also
benefit the middle class. She also advocates that there is a need to persuade people to transcend
their own narrow self-interest and realize that there are gains to be had from the collective enterprise
(Fainstein 2009, p.35), suggesting that the friction between equity and democracy reduces as such
narrow self-interest is replaced by belief in collective enterprise. To this end, Fainstein advocates for
her readers to become advocates indeed, repetitive advocates of the normative framework of
planning that is the Just City.
The Just City is both a normative framework for planners and a realistic conceptualisation of urban
justice. Its foundational priorities equity, diversity and democracy place it squarely within the social
democratic interventionist school. In fact, they place it in the realms of political philosophy and
political science.
There are two primary weaknesses of the Just City model. Firstly, despite its claim not be, it is utopian.
Fainstein, like Friedmann (2000), calls for a comprehensive social democratic interventionist approach
to planning and urban justice. But whereas Friedmann readily identifies as a utopian, Fainstein
eschews that label. For Lake (2014, p. 360), this is exasperated by Fainsteins marginalisation of the
theory of process in the model. For Lake, the path to a just city relies on a plan to overturn the current
order through peaceful struggle, organisation, democratic participation and implementation.

Colm Maguire

MRUP 1: Planning, Society & Diversity

Fainstein is probably not guilty of neglecting process to the extent that Lake suggests, but this paper
argues that the model is Utopian, and Fainstein should embrace that (alongside a plan to win) or risk
harming the potency of her own Model.
The second weakness is one potentially shared by interventionist and pluralist democratic theories
across the world, and it will be called here the redistribution grudge. State intervention to provide
financial equity this does not concern the methods of producing broader non-material equity
rather than equality, will lead to a situation in which only a minority lower class of the population are
net receivers from the urban public purse. This in turn leads to the middle class begrudging the taxes
they pay to bring others up to a standard of living not perceived to be much different from their own.
In Europe where support for state intervention remains high, support for welfare systems is very low
(ESS, 2012, pp. 5-6). This is by no means concrete proof of the redistribution grudge, and this paper
cannot claim to have factual evidence for such a phenomenon, but support for the welfare state is
dwindling across Europe despite rising financial inequality and unemployment. Fainstein may thus be
incorrect in saying that achievement of the just is a circular process, whereby the pre-existence of
equity begets sentiment in its favour (Fainstein 2009, p.33). This paper argues that Fainsteins model
(and Friedmanns) would be destined to unravel in a retreat from tolerance as the burden of
redistribution is perceived to return fewer benefits for those who are net contributors but not in their
opinion, wealthy. The model must be strengthened so that social power is redistributed to the lower
and middle-class majority from the minority elite to maintain political consensus. This raises its own
challenges, obviously.
These are two weaknesses, but the strengths of the model are many. First of all, the Model rightly
prioritises outcomes over processes in its approach of theory. Fainsteins clear rejection of
communicative planning surely takes account of that theorys lack of commentary on what makes a
good plan, what aids a struggling community or what requirements person actually have to
participate. The name of the Model in itself hammers home Fainsteins mission to investigate what
makes a just city (Bontje 2011, p.595). In linking the theoretical and the practical (withstanding Lakes
above criticism), Fainstein has crafted a Model that will potentially give the next generation of
interventionist urban planners the theoretical basis from which to actually challenge the status quo in
planning (Zukin 2012, p.867). Furthermore, she has given the planning community a societal goal to
aim for something arguably missing since the fall of rational comprehensive planning.
Secondly, the model establishes sound values in a straightforward accessible normative framework
for planning: much time is spent on the definition of justice, and the result is a practical & prioritised
definition that can be cited easily in practice. The clarity of the models foundations, its normative

Colm Maguire

MRUP 1: Planning, Society & Diversity

aims and its accessibility give it its real strength: as with Taylors (1998, p.64) comparison of the
accessible textbook of Keeble over the scientific and abstruse textbook of McLoughlin, it is far more
likely than any other recent theory (Marxist, postmodern, communicative) to make it into the desk
draw, or the subconscious, of a planning professional. Not only is it accessible, but it is also relevant
to everyday planning decisions, with its concentration on outcomes allowing a continuous illustration
of current urban injustice.
Thirdly, the model challenges the cult of growth, inequality and competitiveness in which our planning
and political systems are currently held as willing hostages. In her many essays and lectures on this
topic, Fainstein has criticised big retail, sports franchises, the Olympic games, politicians and many
others. Fainsteins aim is not to influence theory so much as to influence practice. She will be almost
certainly be made happier influencing change in planning departments and city governments in the
coming decades than by receiving good peer reviews and slaps on the back from the academic
community. This model is unashamedly political what Friedmann (2003) would call non-Euclidian
and rejects the pragmatism of the brow-beaten bureaucrat (Samuel 2010) and the model of the
planner as a faceless dullard (Campbell 2014). Fainstein is clear, she wants to make justice the first
evaluative criterion used in policy making (Fainstein 2010, cited in Mitchell 2011). The key strength
of this model is its unapologetic determination to bring planning back into the service of the people.
***
The Just City is a model in its current form that has been progressed by Susan Fainstein since the turn
of the century. This paper has detailed Fainsteins rejection of Communicative planning theory and
her development of a three-pronged definition of justice, building on the works of Rawls, Nussbaum
and others. The theory will continue to grow and develop, as all early theories do. Our conclusions in
this paper are that the strength of the model lies in its focus on outcomes, its accessibility and its open
challenge to the status quo. Though weaknesses have been explored in this paper, they amount to
very little alongside what the theory has achieved and is predicted here to achieve in planning that
is a change in the attitude of planners and a re-orientation toward that central theory of justice.

Colm Maguire

MRUP 1: Planning, Society & Diversity

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