This Independent Study consists of four main chapters, which in concert attempt to establish a philosophical understanding of justice in the city. The first chapter "Introduction" outlines the historical development of cities and the impact of that development on the gradual introduction of justice in urban planning. Jane Jacobs' historic struggle against the New York City planning autocrat Robert Moses, in particular, serves as the springboard from which the popular discussion of justice in the city has arisen. All discussion of justice in the city, at least in North America, agrees on one thing: injustice is universally present.

The second chapter "Rawls and His Critics" examines John Rawls' seminal A Theory of Justice and justice as fairness. Iris Marion Young's and Norman Daniels' critiques--supported by other relevant theorists--are considered and shown to reveal weaknesses in justice as fairness. While justice as fairness is procedurally sound, the principles of justice at which Rawls arrives are challenged. Specifically, Rawls' emphasis on distribution is challenged.

The third chapter "Alternatives to Justice as Fairness" presents the independent theories of both Young and Susan S. Fainstein. Young offers city life as a normative ideal as a means of countering domination and oppression. Fainstein draws on Rawls, Young, and Martha Nussbaum's capabilities approach to suggest principles of urban planning and policy that are intended to further equity, diversity, and democracy. I conclude that a reformulated justice as fairness informed by Young's and Fainstein's work provides the best understanding of justice in the city.

The final chapter "Application and Pragmatic Difficulties" bridges the gap between theory and application. One of the most significant threats to justice in the city is the increasingly global competition between cities. I argue that David Imbroscio's local economic alternative development strategies (LEADS) can successfully counter such competition and lead to a realization of justice in current and future cities.


Moskowitz, Eric

Second Advisor

Riley, Evan


Urban Studies; Philosophy


Ethics and Political Philosophy | Urban Studies and Planning


John Rawls, Iris Marion Young, Susan S. Fainstein, justice, city, urban, Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses, David Imbroscio, economic development, justice as fairness, city life as a normative ideal, equity, diversity, recognition, politics of difference, urban planning, cities, domination, oppression

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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