Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series
Edited by Frank Fischer, Douglas Torgerson, Anna Durnová and Michael Orsini
Chapter 10: Social justice and urban policy deliberation: balancing the discourses of democracy, diversity and equity
Although critical analysis of urban policy has had as a subtext the identification of injustice and a normative standard by which to evaluate policy, until recently the criteria for determining just policy were rarely specified. Urban scholars, however, have now begun to address the topic of justice explicitly and to prescribe approaches to realizing it within the urban context. Choosing justice as the norm for urban policy reacts to the growing inequality and social exclusion resulting from the application of neoliberalism to public policy. Within this ideological framework, competitiveness has become the chief justification for policy choice. Policies to reduce inequality and provide advantages to minority groups, in the neoliberal view, hinder the workings of the market’s invisible hand, produce moral hazards, and cause the economy to perform at a suboptimal level. By this logic efficiency becomes the single criterion for evaluating public policy, and cost–benefit analysis constitutes the tool for its realization. The counter-argument is that using justice as the yardstick for measuring public policy effectiveness does not negate efficiency as a goal but instead requires that the policy maker ask to what end efficiency applies. This chapter outlines a mode of policy analysis that takes justice into account, using examples of schemes to restructure the built environment. I use the three general principles of democracy, diversity, and equity to define justice and derive from them more specific metrics by which to judge the process and outcomes of particular policies.
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