The specters of Rob Ford, Sarah Palin, and Chris Christie

A question that has haunted me since Sarah Palin first set foot on the big stage in 2008 concerns what, actually, disqualifies you to lead in a democratic society. She was a values candidate: we all knew that, or at least I thought we did. As the criticisms of her came more to the forefront, it wasn’t just that people didn’t support her because they (like me) didn’t share the values she represented, but because she was rural and didn’t have a particularly fancy education (a series of community colleges and then the University of Idaho.) Her education is a lot more like the rest of America than Barack Obama’s or John McCain’s.

It’s not entirely fair to ask some of the questions I am about ready to ask, but: Chris Christie supposedly couldn’t be a leader because he is fat. (He’s also a mean son of bachelor, but that glorious factoid got revealed to the Puritans’ delight after their ‘buh buh buh…..he’s *fat*’ objections.) But lots of Americans and Canadians are tubby. Rob Ford’s a mess, he’s a *practicing* addict, and his values are repulsive to me, but…if he did manage his symptoms, the very fact that he didn’t always have his disease under control means he’s disqualified from ever being elected. But there are a lot of addicts out here, some of whom are ok, some of whom are not (at the moment) doing ok, etc.

Could you imagine if a man who did time wanted to run? it the case that only Ivy-educated, Type-A’s with Hollywood teeth are allowed to lead in a democratic society?

I am confused about my own thinking because there are imperfections and flaws, and there are much more serious matters. There are a lot of child abusers out there, and that would disqualify somebody in my book pretty fast. Just because a flaw is common doesn’t mean it’s not deadly.

But it’s no good complaining about ‘those political elites’ not representing us if perfected people are the only people allowed to exist in the public sphere. Either we admit: these are elite offices that only elites may attain, or we have to allow that there are people with problems in the world–problems that $$$ and cosmetic surgery fix for the elite–but that those people with problems, too, can help us solve public problems. Would it be so horrible for us to be with Christie as he struggles with his weight? Or to understand that Ford is struggling with a disease?

We do not owe Woody Allen the presumption of innocence

Attention conservation notice: We owe both Mr. Allen and Ms. Farrow quite a bit, but none of it involves protecting him the way we are legally obligated to protect the rights of the accused in courts.

The interwebs predictably went into a long discussion over Dylan Farrow’s allegation that Woody Allen molested her, right after he obtained a lifetime achievement award from the Golden Globes. One feminist writer had the nerve-the nerve!–to point out that by staunchly arguing that we should “presume innocence” we, by default, presume Dylan Farrow is lying.

This has inspired lots of shouty ethics posts about what we “owe” Mr. Allen, how ‘we don’t know’ what happened, how women can and do lie about abuse claims, and how sinister psychologists and ex-wives plant memories and yada yada yada freakin’ yada. Yeah, women lie sometimes. Know what? Men do, too. False memories? Sure! I can barely remember what I did yesterday. Sometimes there are even truth-y looking statistics about how often women are lying liar liarpants. But, alas, those don’t help us here now, unless you like to indulge in ecological fallacy.

We have courts for precisely this reason. Because people lie. Because we can’t know about whether an individual actually did something just because other individuals in the group he or she belongs to do that thing sometimes. Courts. They are nifty.

1. Mr. Allen got to post his own (incoherent) rebuttal in the New York Freaking Times. I’d say the power differential between him and Ms. Farrow is well-proved by now, and I’d also say that we’ve heard puh-lenty of his side of the story. One member of this dance is the darling of the movie-going world, the other is merely a fame-adjacent adopted daughter who has inconvenienced us by reminding us of her childhood victimization when we’d rather she shut up so we can enjoy his funny movies with beautiful people and beautiful settings guilt-free.

I know which one I’d rather be.

2. We are not in a criminal court. Did I mention that? I repeat: we are not in a criminal court. We can blather on about the “presumption of innocence” all we want to here, but all we will do is repeat oodles of (extremely good) legal theory that really is not relevant here since we are not in a court. Mr. Allen is not on trial, nor is he likely going to be on trial. No government has taken any action against Mr. Allen as a result of these claims.

He still has his rights to due process (to the extent that the post-911 federal government has left any of us those). He is walking around. In fact, the only thing that appears to have happened is that her allegations rained on his Golden Globe parade, an honor he didn’t even care enough about to show up and pick up his own statue. When I am encumbered on a jury or sworn in as a judge, then I shall owe Mr. Allen what the law requires, and what my duty in those roles requires. Until then, I don’t owe it to him to suspend my personal judgment of his conduct as a member of the society I live in.

If he’s sad he’s not in a court, he can try to sue Farrow (again) for the allegations and probably lose (again). He hasn’t done that because he’s such a swell guy and he loves her so much, according to his NYT piece. Or because he’s tired of paying for Farrow’s legal fees and his very smart lawyers are telling him to just let it ride and go out and make another movie, which is my guess.

And yes, his reputation is at stake, but you know what: Ms. Farrow’s reputation is at stake here as well. We can’t separate these reputations into distinct little boxes now. Yes, it is a terrible thing to have one’s reputation sullied, particularly unjustly. Innuendo is awful. But both accuser and accused have reputations at stake, and innuendo affects both. Yes, he has a wife, children, and friends who will suffer seeing him called a child molester. Still, the Farrow family also has endured quite a bit of name-calling directed at them, as well, and none of it pleasant or easy for young people involved. I’m sure Dylan Farrow could have lived the rest of her life without being a called a deluded liar.

Because we are not in a court with clearly assigned roles, Mr. Allen is owed what is owed via the general social contract. Given that I haven’t picked up my gun to go vigilante on him, nor organized a mob to string him up, I think I’ve done my duty by Mr. Allen and no, I do not presume him innocent. I’ve read a lot of the material. Heck, I watched the credit roll on What’s Up Tiger Lily 35 years ago or so and concluded: ew. But with all the various and sundry evidence out there, I’ve concluded, in my personal opinion, the guy is a skeev at best. Does that make him a child molester? I really don’t know what happened with Dylan Farrow, but I don’t have to. I’m not obligated to base my assessments on criminal legal standards of proof.

Why not?

3. Neither Mr. Allen nor Ms. Farrow are members of any community I belong to, or my family. If they were, I would have obligations to BOTH him AND her that differ from those of a juror or court officer where the presumption of innocence is clearly owed due to our laws, imperfect as they are. However, he’s an artist and a media persona to the vast majority of people weighing in here….and so? Fellow human traveler he may be, and he may also be a celebrity, but we don’t know him, and he doesn’t know us. He is still simply a fellow American who gets lots of press time but whose rights, as far as I can see, have not been violated by either Ms. Farrow or any government acting under my authority. It’s a shame the press is on his fanny, but he wasn’t objecting to that when it got people to buy tickets to his movies. Double-edged sword, fame.

The only real question in front of us as his audience, which is what we are, is whether the allegations will prompt us to avoid his movies, since he and I are not invited to same cocktail parties, and I’m pretty sure he’s not feeling bad he’s not been invited to my place or that if I see him in the grocery store, I shan’t speak to him. He’s made a great deal of money off his art, and he’s been free to make that art during the 10 years since the original allegations, and he continues to be free to make art that his fans will undoubted keep buying as they did even after he took off with another teenaged daughter of Mia Farrow’s, which is where I personally drew the line despite being shouted at by various Team Allen partisans. Legal-yep. Yucky? More than a little. I’m pretty sure that my desire never to give him another penny of my money will not result in his needing food stamps* even if my personal assessment turns out to have been unjust.

4. Mia Farrow bashing, OMG. Yeah, yeah, I know, we’re all supposed to believe that Farrow has coached and duped Dylan into doing this because she is burning–BURNING–with jealousy and rage because she no longer enjoys the big manly love of Woody Allen. Because it’s so much easier to believe in a bitter old harpy still using her innocent daughter as a pawn during an acrimonious separation that happened a decade ago than to think that a dude might have groped and frightened a little girl who has grown up into a young woman who wants to speak out about it.

Mia Farrow is this young woman’s mother. She’s supporting her daughter as that daughter steps into a shitstorm, no matter how it turns out. Is that really that difficult to understand? Unlike the “she’s using Dylan to get at her ex” narrative, my explanation doesn’t make the dude the most important person in the story, but…a mother supporting a daughter during a difficult time strikes me as pretty easy to believe. Actually much easier to believe than the idea that Ma Farrow still gives a rip about exacting revenge on Allen anymore.

We don’t owe Mr. Allen anything that we don’t also owe either mother or daughter Farrow. Mr. Allen has been tremendously privileged throughout the entire process, and that is unlikely to change even if those nasty feminists get their way and get us to stop pretending that there is a neutral point of view here that requires we extend him grace until something is “proven” to criminal court standards. There isn’t a neutral point of view. Real life requires we deal with the messy interconnections among people, not artificial construct of the legally constructed world of a courtroom. In this context, presuming Mr. Allen innocent sides with the person who, by far, has the most power in the conflict, one who is facing no consequence except that others think poorly of him.

So what do we do? We change the focus. We focus on what we owe Ms. Farrow. I know, I know, once again, focusing on a woman instead of a man–it’s horrible, but just listen. We owe it to her to listen. We owe it to her not to shout over the top of her or call her names. We owe it to her–at least–to step back and think about Allen and what he may have done. We don’t owe it to her to presume him guilty. But we do owe it to her to take her experiences, perceptions, and feelings seriously. He has plenty of opportunity to go forward from here and show that if he ever was that guy, he’s not that guy now and we don’t need to worry about him hurting young women. That should be the discourse–not how we should protect him from having to deal with reputational loss.

* Which is good because apparently we’ve decided that poor children are better off without food, a much bigger problem than whether Mr. Allen is going to end his career on a high note.

The Ring of Gyges

John Holbo over at Crooked Timber has a post up asking some questions about what is going on with Glaucon and Plato as they discuss the Ring of Gyges in The Republic. Contemporary movie-goers will recognize the Ring of Gyges as the One Ring from Tolkein, for all practical purposes, a ring that allows the wearer to become invisible and do what he likes. The results are, according to Herodotus, that Gyges doesn’t behave himself particularly well, killing a king and taking his wife. Holbo asks about the dramatic incidentals in the story, and I admit I got nothing–I don’t understand them either.

Just a note about Tolkein: Tolkein borrowed from many places, and I doubt he used the ring in the central way he did believing that he was going to get away with something and that nobody would recognize it as the ring of Gyges. Instead, I think he counted on people recognizing his morality tale as an extended riff on accountability, power, and goodness contained in the original myth around Gyges. I think he expected his reading audience, unlike ours, to not only have read the Republic and Herodotus, but probably read both in Greek; he couldn’t have known about the collapse of the western cannon or what Peter Jackson would do with the book (nobody ever really knows what impact their act is going to have), in taking his books to people who have never and are likely to never have read The Republic.

Why Ayn Rand’s novels do not excite ethicists (at least not me)

We’ve been chatting over the weekend on Quora about “Why Don’t Philosophers Take Ayn Rand Seriously?” The usual responses come down to some kvetches that philosophers are all lefties and are, therefore, biased. Or academic snobbery. But I think the answer is easier than that. I think she’s got some fairly simple dictates about ethics that don’t require a lot of elaboration, and thus, there’s just not much to do with it.

Now, keep in mind, I’m talking about her novels, most of which are morality tales and meant as models for her ethics. I’m not talking about her metaphysics, which I haven’t studied.

The space for exploration in ethics as field concerns what we owe other people. Rand’s answer to that question is “nothing.” To the degree that you want to argue this position, all you have after that are consequentialist claims about how we are all better off if we just pursue our own interests and don’t interfere with others doing the same–a claim that I don’t even see Rand herself making. All she seems to care about is the singular liberty and self-ownership of individuals, and in the novels those concepts are presented as deontological. People should not interfere with other people because they shouldn’t, not because there are, necessarily, any aggregate gains from that noninterference. But let’s play along with thinking about outcomes because that’s the way I think it’s presented mostly commonly today: individuals get freedom, which is the highest priority, and society gets more–more innovations, more well-being (because we’re all pursuing our own ends and not being used as ends), more individual, and thus aggregate, utility.

If you allow the idea that we owe each other something, then you can at least spend some time thinking about what the contours of those obligations should be. There’s something to do there. If your answer is ‘nothing other than noninterference’ like Rand’s, it’s pretty much a mic drop in ethics. Instead, you spend your time, as Rand does, envisioning the possibilities of noninterference. Or you can outline what the duties and rights of noninterference entail–which also boil down to applications of negative rights.

CEOs that use their companies as platforms for their political celebrity

As a person who is both a maker, taker, consumer, and investor, I am confused by the CEO as political celebrity. Me, I would like all the CEOs of companies that I invest in to, simply, stay quiet about their politics, unlike Wholefood CEO John Mackey. Do not give people a reason to boycott the products or services that my investments are producing, thank you very much. You want to run for office? Fine. You are entitled in this great nation of ours to hold public office.


Aristotle may have said that man is a political animal, and he’s right, and there are markets for political ideas, too, don’t get me wrong. But given a choice between simply buying a) whole-bean coffee versus b) buying whole bean coffee despite/because of the political stance of the company’s reps, I strongly suspect that a) appeals to the bigger consumer base of both conservatives and liberals. Using your company as platform from which to launch your political celebrity strikes me as bumping up against the borders of business ethics. While you are on salary from a company, aren’t you meant to put the company’s interests before your own desire to sell books?

There are some businesses for whom the nature of the product is wrapped up in symbolism–flags, peace t-shirts, etc. And some are difficult to boycott: JB Hunt had well-known political ideas, but it is hard to boycott logistics companies. But not coffee. Or loaves of bread. Or salmon filets. In those cases, errrbody’s money is green. And you can offend liberal or conservative buys with political celebrity. Right?

Is there anybody writing about this idea of celebrity CEO’s? I would like to know about it, if so.

Equality is not over-rated, and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King Day in Los Angeles involves a parade down Martin Luther King Boulevard in Leimert Park and Crenshaw, very close where I am lucky enough to live. I was reflecting on the legacy of Dr. King this morning, and I am wondering what he would think regarding our current dialogue surrounding equality, which treats the concept rather like a dirty word. Like many concepts in justice, equality is horribly misunderstood. You read conservative and libertarian commenters lament that liberals want everything to be equal–an equality of outcomes–that makes no sense whatsoever because people are born with different endowments (meaning skills, not inherited wealth) and different characters, so why should we be equal? I find this line of thinking to be generally specious: few people even on the left believe that self-made millionaires and scroungers should enjoy the same economic or social outcomes past the provision of basic goods like health, education, food, housing. (And even Hayek admitted to basic goods in the Road to Serfdom.) Instead, liberals tend to focus on equality of opportunity and those basic goods–the former being the most difficult to conceptualize and advocate for. No, we do not start out life with the same endowments–the same gifts from heaven, the same privileges in society, or the same family. Measures to promote equality of opportunity tend to create particular kind of inequality in pursuit of opportunities from those they perceive as starting from a position of disadvantage.

One of the most poignant memes going around the interwebs has been this one:

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This meme conveys the idea nicely: there is an equality of outcome here; it’s not about millionaires and scroungers, but just a little visual story about some kids who want to enjoy something together. What we’re missing here is the process behind it: Do the boys work together to find the resources? Or do the littlest boy’s parent’s use the state to force the other boys to help the littlest get a bigger box? We can’t really resolve the idealogical differences based on a meme, as usual.

Nonetheless, my point is that equality in some respect is so central to justice that you can’t escape equality even in a meme trying to draw the distinction between equality and justice. Equality is a central theme in justice even now, when it is heavily criticized from both the left and the right.

Dr. King helped illustrate how absolutely central equality is to justice: there is no justice when a man of one race has due process and another subject to summary justice with mob rule.

Bonhoeffer and opposition to the state in justice theory

This morning in my seminar on social justice and public policy, we are finally going to tackle liberation theology. It’s taken me a good four readings of Gustavo Gutierrez’s Liberation Theology book to get to a point where I think I can say something intelligent. I’m not crazy about how I organized the last three weeks of the class, but it turns out that I needed the extra week of Thanksgiving to figure out what I wanted to say.

We land this week with Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Bonhoeffer is one of my favorite justice thinkers, actually, because he is so confounding. He was a conservative Lutheran, and he appears to have had little time for liberal modernists like Reinhold Neibuhr. This fact tends to make conservatives in the US chortle with glee that he “must have been a conservative.” But he was a conservative Lutheran, people, and a European one. Check out the social welfare regimes in Lutheran-dominated European countries if you want to know what that means.

When I say that Bonhoeffer was a conservative, I mean that his theology was informed by Biblical revelation, of course–his problem with the liberal modernists like Neibuhr concerned their willingness to rely on intuition relatively more than Bonhoeffer could stand, rather than more strict Biblical interpretation. Just because he was a conservative theologian does not mean that he would have lined along with people like Pat Robertson.

That theological conservatism led him to interesting places, including the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, which impressed him greatly. The Baptists, too, were evangelical and relied on revelation and the Bible, but there he saw the strands of political liberation even within a congregation centered on conservative doctrine. Setting themselves against the face of white domination, the leaders of the Abyssinian Baptist Church denied the notion that liberation needs necessary be “liberal” in a freedom-loving, individualistic way. Instead, it appealed to the higher social order of God’s community.

Bonhoeffer carried this understanding back to Germany where he preached against in the Nazis. I’ve been reading three key sermons: The Jewish Question; A Church of the World or a Church of the World; and The Aryan Paragraph in the Church. The Bonhoeffer revealed here shows a man who becomes progressively more convinced that the church’s work is external and possesses a duty to work against the corrupted state.

Bonhoeffer’s critics argue that for all practical purposes, he did little to help Jewish victims. He can not be used as German martyr, they argue, because there is little evidence that he worked to free them or get them out of the country. Yet he joined in a plot to assassinate Hitler and was executed for it, largely out of spite, I argue, at the end of the war. One can always criticize everybody for not doing more; I have trouble believing that a relatively famous theologian like Bonhoeffer, who had spoken out against the regime, would have been a particularly effective underground worker. I suspect he was watched and reported on closely which would have served to expose those he associated with, not hide them.

The question that sits before young students of public affairs with Guttierez, Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther King (and Gandhi, of course) concerns when social movements can, and perhaps should, be justified in taking up violent opposition to the state.

(I’m going to throw this up as I have to run to class! Sorry for typos. Will proofread a bit later.)

Where do rights come from?

We’ve spent the last few weeks in justice class working on rights and what they are, where they come from. In particular, we posed the difficult question for secular governments of: if you don’t believe in souls or the divine aspects of man, how do you set up the theoretical precedents for humans as rights-holders? It’s a sticky problem when you start poking at the question of rights without gods: people of faith have it a bit easier by referring to a divinity who holds mankind in special regard, and from that follows that mankind has certain entitlements. Certainly secular rights theorists have their arguments, such as eudaimonism, among others. The nice thing about the secular route is that you have a opening for people like Peter Singer to come along and challenge your assumptions about pleasure- and pain-feeling for the basis for rights, largely as a means of extending those rights to animals and other species that obviously feel pain, fear death, etc.

I got rather stuck in the middle of Nicholas Wolterstorff’s book, Justice: Right and Wrongs, and within his chapter on eudaimonism, where he argues that pleasure and pain principles can not, ultimately serve as a basis for rights-holding. I’m getting lost in his reasoning. Here’s Wolterstorff discussing Rawls (my approach–public reason) versus secular morality, and the paradox of the reasoning behind rights.

It strikes me that his argument that you can’t reason with some people also pokes holes in his own approach to rights; if you can’t reason with boneheads, and you can’t reconcile public moralities, you also have trouble making foundational religious claims among people like me who do not believe.

#ACSP2012 Reflections: Therapuetic Planning Session on Saturday

Attention conservation notice: Planning theorists rule! I really enjoyed my paper session, and I’m very grateful that I stuck to finishing a draft of my paper despite the crazy fall I am having. Simon Fraser’s Meg Holden was our discussant, and she did a great job. In sum, we concluded that we all had reservations about the metaphor of therapy to describe the process of restoring political community. We also discussed the distinctions of restoring relationships among and between socio-polital groups. Aftab Erfan brought in some Peter Marris; Robert Lake laid down some pragmatic approaches to constructing justice via planning with some John Dewey. Nicole Foster brought some Gibson-Graham, who are never not 100 percent interesting.


SCHWEITZER, Lisa [University of Southern California] l

Public apologies take myriad forms, from the politically expedient to the genuinely reparative. This manuscript examines the role of restitution—financial compensation—as a supplement to Sandercock’s recent writings that have framed planning as part of a therapeutic, healing dialogue (Sandercock 2004; 2010). In the first part of the manuscript, the mutually reparative nature of healing dialogues are discussed, providing insight into the moral paradox for planning theory of healing as apologies without restitution. The paradox concerns the profession’s longstanding failure to pursue restitution in communities where planning has done harm, even as planning theory has stressed the importance of recognizing past harm. Absent restitution, healing dialogues can benefit the offender—the state and its consulting professions—more so than the victims. This article argues for understanding the two different contexts of public compensation in planning and development: the utilitarian and the reparative. Three major positions on restitution and reparation are discussed in the context of planning: a) Sher’s theories of entitlement to restitution in nonideal justice; b) Derrida’s theories on public apologies as public theater; and Ricouer’s theories of public memory and forgiveness. All of these concepts have a role to play in planning theory, but the first, restitution, is an a priori condition to emancipatory planning practice and the just city.
1. Sandercock, L. “Towards a Planning Imagination for the 21St Century.” Journal of the American Planning
Association 70, no. 2 (2004): 133-141

2. Sandercock, L. “Spirituality and the Urban Professions: The Paradox at the Heart of Planning.” Planning
Theory & Practice 7, no. 1 (2006): 65-97

3. Sher, George. Approximate Justice: Studies in Non-Ideal Theory. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998

4. Derrida, Jacques. On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness. London: Routeledge, 2001.

5. KUTZ, CHRISTOPHER. “Justice in Reparations: The Cost of Memory and the Value of Talk.” Philosophy &
Public Affairs 32, no. 3 (2004); 271-312.

Abstract Index #: 591

ERFAN, Aftab [University of British Columbia]

Tsulquate is a small reservation on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, home to some 500 First Nation people. The conditions of the community are typical of present-day remote reservations across Canada: high incidence of poverty, addiction, mental illness, lateral violence, and general sense of anger and hopelessness. Much of this is a legacy of the history of oppression that marks these communities, including forced relocation of the people from their ancestral lands
to the current semi-urban location (1964), the forced removal of children from their families and their placement within the Indian Residential School system (1929-1975), and an ongoing attitude of racism and neglect.
In 2009, the Band leadership put in motion the creation of a Comprehensive Community Plan and welcomed university researchers to assist in the plan making and implementation process. As a doctoral student with previous experience in planning practice I enthusiastically stepped forward. It soon became clear that this was unlike any planning I had done before. Given the deepness of the community’s wounds and the extent of conflict at various levels the communicative, collaborative tools that I was used to working with did not seem appropriate, even after adjusting for “cultural” differences. Both the pain and the antagonism that seemed to dominate the collective psyche of the community, also dominated gatherings, affectively blocking any attempts at collaboration.
A primary question for community planners -or anybody else hoping to “intervene” or “assist” in such a setting – began to sharpen: What would it mean to conceive of the planning process as a healing process? Put another way, what is the “therapeutic” role that planning can/should play (Sandercock, 2003) without reproducing the “colonial cultures of planning” (Porter, 2010).

While searching for appropriate models for being, relating, and acting in such a context, I decided to grow my skills in a meeting facilitation approach developed in post-apartheid South Africa with roots in process oriented psychology, which is being called Deep Democracy (Lewis, 2008). The ensuing action research I engaged in can be seen as experimentation, applying Deep Democracy in gatherings on Tsulquate Reserve in the course of implementing the Band’s Comprehensive Community Plan. In particular, I facilitated a series of meetings among parents, grandparents and teenagers on the topic of raising children – a seemingly simple topic but one that is fraught with internal dilemmas and significant tensions, and that was identified as a priority for the Band. Stories of struggle abounded in the course of these meetings, as did stories of hope and connection, and even though I opted not to drive strongly towards agreements on appropriate planning interventions, the meetings generated practical outcomes. The initiative has resulted in the formation of an ongoing Parents Committee that has become an active voice of children and their families within the Band’s governance structure. The parenting lessons generated and debated through the sessions have been captured in a large community-painted mural, which was deemed the most appropriate format for making the lessons more widely available in the community. More importantly, the transformational learning, personal empowerment, and a sense of ongoing healing was palpable and has been captured through a participatory evaluation process, and in the transcripts and follow-up interviews with attendees. Key members of the community are now being trained in Deep Democracy, as a way of retaining the capacity to continue having affective meetings.
Based on the above, this paper summarizes my reflections on the nature of therapeutic planning, its potential and appropriateness, and the necessary skills and capacities planners need to work in this realm.


1. Sandercock, Leonie, Cosmopolis II: Mongrel Cities of the 21st Century, Continuum: 2003

2. Porter, Libby, Unlearning the Colonial Cultures of Planning, Ashgate: 2010

3. Lewis, Myrna, Inside the No: Five Steps to Decisions that Last, Published by author in Johannesburg, South
Africa: 2008


FOSTER, Nicole [University of Texas at Arlington]

In recent work, Edward Soja and J.K. Gibson-Graham explore non-foundationalist political action and the ways in which spatiality constitutes and is constituted by such practices. Although the authors share certain theoretical interests and agree on the role of academics as intentional interventionists for community-based justice and political projects, they posit contrasting ontologies and focus their analytical attention on different spatial scales, which has significant implications for identifying and nurturing political activities that empower oppressed individuals and communities.
Lefebvre’s “right to the city” serves as a productive concept in order to unpack these differences and explore their subsequent implications for planning practices. In his discussion of “right to the city” as somewhat synonymous with “seeking spatial justice”, Soja suggests that “right to the city”, practices not only include appropriating or defending space, but also inhabiting and creating space. Although Soja’s brief discussion of the creative and vital aspects of Lefebvre’s “right to the city” opens the door to questions of how such practices can generate emergent political subjectivities and agendas that are not explicitly tied to justice concerns, he does not pursue this possibility. Rather, Soja focuses on the ways in which “right to the city” operates as a mobilizing concept, enabling pre-defined groups to transcend their differences and work towards pre-determined justice claims.
The creative and vital aspect of Lefebvre’s “right to the city” concept, alluded to by Soja, draws upon Nietzschean influences, a point ignored by most scholars (Kofman and Lebas 2003). Tracing Lefebvre’s “right to the city” concept to Nietzsche challenges us to identify the political possibilities that emerge out of the actual experience of creating new spaces, places, and communities. Furthermore, Nietzsche suggests that such empowered action through lived experience is animated through a different affective stance – a kind of jouissance as opposed to ressentiment. Although they do not discuss the “right to the city” concept, Gibson-Graham’s “politics of becoming” resonates with the Nietzschean influences of Lefebvre’s work by pointing to the ways new bodily and affective practices can perform and therefore, engender new political subjectivities and practices.
As part of my preliminary dissertation research, this paper explores Lefebvre’s Nietzschean influences to suggest how certain “right to the city” practices, such as community gardens and other examples of DIY Urbanism, may indicate a “politics of becoming” as opposed to Soja’s “spatial justice”. In so doing, this paper will discuss the planning implications of these practices including how to address competing “rights to the city” and the inevitable struggles over geography that not only exist between oppressed communities and the state and/or capital, but rather as a result of the overlapping and more often, competing desires of individuals. As such, I suggest that Gibson-Graham’s discussion of Foucaultian ethical practices may prove helpful to communicative and post-structural planning practices aimed at empowering marginalized individuals and communities.


1. Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2006). A postcapitalist politics. Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press.

2. Lefebvre, H. (2003). Writings on cities. E. Kofman & E. Lebas, (Eds.). Oxford: Blackwell.

3. Merrifield, A. (1995). Lefebvre, anti‐logos and Nietzsche: An alternative reading of the production of space.
Antipode, 27 (3), 294–303.

4. Purcell, M. (2002). Excavating Lefebvre: The right to the city and its urban politics of the inhabitant.
GeoJournal, 58 (2/3), 99–108.

5. Soja, E. W. (2010). Seeking spatial justice. Minneapolis: Univ of Minnesota Press.


LAKE, Robert [Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey]

Considerations of justice have moved to a central place in planning theory following Susan Fainstein’s (2010) eloquent plea to elevate justice as the principal criterion for the evaluation of planning practice. In Fainstein’s principled and impassioned view, justice trumps other considerations such as economic efficiency or competitiveness as the desired outcome of planning practice. Justice is the object that planning practice should be oriented to achieve. Considered as the object of planning, justice names a widely accepted consensus on universal values (democracy, equity, and diversity in Fainstein’s formulation) to employ as standards for evaluating practice. On this understanding, while justice provides a criterion for planning evaluation, specification of its requirements occurs outside of the planning process.

In this paper, I explore the implications for planning theory and practice of making justice the subject rather than the object of planning. This reformulation places justice at the center rather than the outcome of practice. Of concern, in this view, is planning as the practice of justice rather than the justice of planning practice. Rather than assessing the outcome of practice against an independent universal standard of justice, an explicit consideration of justice becomes a central element of planning practice. In Flyvbjerg’s (2001) terms, value rationality replaces instrumental rationality at the center of planning practice, transcending the distinction between means and ends and taking seriously Dewey’s claim (1927/1954) that all knowledge is moral. Making justice the subject of planning is not simply to refocus on planning process over planning outcomes, although process is certainly at stake in such a reformulation. It is to place the explicit deliberation over justice on an equal level with the specification of planning practice within the planning process. Doing so alters the temporality of justice claims within the planning process, from an ex post facto evaluative standard of planning outcomes to a preemptive requirement in the design and enactment of planning practice. Doing so also expands the scope of deliberative democratic planning from the short-term specificity of narrowly construed planning “problems” to a multigenerational process of constructing a political culture in which the meaning and substance of justice attains the status of collectively accepted agreement. On this approach, apparently foundational principles of justice are simply (but more defensibly) understood as the generally accepted articulation of collectively adopted values worked out through reflexive practice over time (Rorty 1979).

In the second half of the paper, I review examples of planning practice that illustrate the experience and the potential of situating justice as the subject of planning. These are cases in which considerations of justice, i.e., an explicit discussion of values, govern the design of the planning process and the substance of discussion. Such examples illuminate both the promise and the challenges of elevating justice to the center of the planning process.


1. Dewey, John. 1927/1954. The Public and Its Problems. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

2. Fainstein, Susan. 2010. The Just City. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

3. Flyvbjerg, Bent. 2001. Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed
Again. NY: Cambridge University Press.

4. Rorty, Richard. 1979. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 5. Westbrook, Robert. 2005. Democratic Hope: Pragmatism and the Politics of Truth. Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press.