Geography and Social Justice: Social Justice in a Changing World / Edition 1

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Human geography - cultural, economic, political, and social - is inherently concerned with social justice and injustice. So also are the associated fields of urban and regional analysis and planning: being born in one country, region or one part of a particular city many, for example, be the single most important factor in an individual's health, education, and longevity. It is clear that in every nation, including present and former socialist societies, wealth and privilege are unevenly divided. But would an equal division of resources really be preferable from a moral point of view? Is it even possible to propound universal prescriptions of what is socially just? or to talk about universal rights in a world in which different kinds of people (according to class, gender, race, and religion) are treated so differently in different places?
Such questions are far from simple. In this book David Smith, one of the world's leading geographical thinkers, throws incisive light upon them. He proceeds first by providing a critical and accessible review of relevant issues in social and moral philosophy, in particular the contrasting claims of different theories of social justice, and the nature of rights and needs. He examines John Rawls's proposition that inequality can be justified to the extent that it benefits the worst-off; and he considers how far justice may or should be seen as a process for equalization or of returning to equality, in the face of persistent and widespread inequality.
The author then applied theoretical perspectives to case studies. These are based on his own first-hand research, and cover racial injustice in the American South, inequality under socialism and its aftermath in eastern Europe, and the porspects for social justice in post-apartheid South Africa. David Smith examines the plight of those peoples who have no secure place or defined territory, focussing on the conflicting claims of the Palestinians and the Israelis. Finally he draws together elements of theory and experience to present trenchantly argued conclusions on the justice of market-led society, the ends of egalitarianism, and the universality of just principles. By both precept and example he shows the central contribution that geographers can make to the understanding of social justice in a complex and rapidly changing world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this intelligent and caring text, there is a timely and powerful case for geographers to engage with the world of moral problems." Geography

"As a survey of both theoretical and empirical material, Geography and Social Justice will be a valuable classroom text for upper-level undergraduate and introductory graduate courses in human geography." Annals of the AAG

"I consider Smith's book a major advance because it examines and integrates conceptual and theoretical issues from related disciplines and because the case studies illustrate the spatial and social dynamics of injustice in various societies ... It is important for geographers to build bridges to other disciplines and to demonstrate that our methodologies, conceptual thinking, and perspectives will help us search for common ground. Smith's book does this and does it well ... I strongly recommend the book to those inside and outside geography with interests in this emerging transdisciplinary area of interest." Journal of Geography

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780631190264
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 6/22/1994
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

David M. Smith is Professor of Geography at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. His books include Industrial Location: An Economic Geographical Analysis (Second Edition, 1981), Human Geography: A Welfare Approach (1975), and Geography, Inequality and Society (1987). He is also co-editor of The Dictionary of Human Geography (Third Edition, 1993).

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Table of Contents

List of Figures.

List of Tables.



1. Introduction: The Return of Social Justice.

Scientific and Moral Perspectives.

Ethics, Morality and Social Justice in Geography.

The Changing World.

The Text.

Part I: Theory:.

2. Elements of Justice.

The Concept of Justice.

Ethics and Morality.





Inequality and Difference.

3. Theories of Social Justice:.

(i) Mainstream.





4. Theories of Social Justice: (ii) Reaction.




5. Returning to Equality: Justice as Equalization.

Social Justice as Equalization.

Minimum Standards.

From Needs to Well-being.

Producing Well-being.

Measuring inequality and Equalization.

Returning to Geography.

Part II: Case Studies:.

6. Inequality in the United States City: What Price the American Dream?.

The Question of Scale.

Inequality in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Political Economy of Disequalization in Atlanta.

Some other Cities.

The Enduring American Dilemma.


7. Inequality in the East European City.

The City under Socialism.

Equalization and Disequalization in Moscow.

Some other Cities.

Distribution under socialism.

Social Justice after Socialism.


8. South Africa after Apartheid.

The aparthied legacy.

The Land Question.

Redistribution for Equalization.

Social Justice after Apartheid.


9. Territory, Community and Home.

Community Destruction in South Africa.

Erasing the Jewish Ghetto.

Resettlement in Palestine.

Displacement by Market Forces.

Loss of Place.


10. Conclusion: Returning to Social Justice.

Market (in)justice.

Egalitarian Social Justice.

The Possibility of Universals.

Social Justice and Geography.


Further Reading.


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