Justice As Subject and Object of Planning


Considerations of justice have moved to a central place in planning theory following Susan Fainstein’s (2010) eloquent plea to elevate justice to the principal criterion for the evaluation of planning practice. Justice based on this understanding is the object of planningthe normative end that planning practice should strive to achieve. In this essay I explore the implications for planning theory and practice of making justice the subject rather than the object of planning. This formulation places justice at the center of rather than regarding it as the outcome of practice: what is of concern here is planning as the practice of justice rather than the justice of planning practice. The question for planning in this mode shifts from ‘Is this a just outcome?’ to ‘What is justice in this situation?’. Based on John Dewey’s pragmatist philosophy, this question transcends the dualisms between subject and object, and process and outcome, by understanding outcomes as already formulated (what Dewey called ends-in-view) in the process of their production. A planning process that takes justice as its subject is anti-foundational and contextual rather than universal, anticipatory rather than retrospective, generative of solutions rather than evaluative of outcomes, culturally encompassing rather than project-delimited, and inclusively democratic rather than expert-driven. Examples from a variety of sources illustrate the practice of justice as the subject of planning.