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Social Justice Final Paper

Social Justice Final Paper

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Published by: David Le Boeuf on Oct 25, 2010
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Social Justice and the City

Spatial Values
Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization
David LeBoeuf


Geographically.whereas the physical territory remains stagnant the social constructs and the general ethos imposed upon the community are always subject to change. It will be illustrated how both processes are ultimately products of a structure that catalyzes social destabilization. affecting not only those individuals entrenched in our social system. By looking at social phenomena through a geographical lens it will be illustrated how space is a critical component when analyzing and discussing issues of justice. The discussion will begin by defining civic capital (as a clarification of social capital) and explaining its spatial relevance. An interdisciplinary concept.Spatial Values: Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization LeBoeuf |2 Introduction Society is defined by two distinct and competing paradigms. this raises interesting questions. The purpose of this paper is to examine how structure facilitates and defines social functionality. popularized by Robert Putnam.rigid ordering and flexible change. but also the landscape in which future interactions will take place. Civic Capital: Social capital with a positive return on investment Social capital. This document will conclude with discussion of how all of this relates to social justice and how certain values have become inherently imbedded in society‟s construction. as can be illustrated through the structural shifts in the economy based in a virtually solidified capitalist philosophy. The facilitation of segregation and gentrification will then be examined with respect to the concept of civic capital. These two forces often collide and synthesize. social capital has a geographical component in that “the quality of relationships . The actualization of this dualism has definitive consequences. is a concept stating that quality social interactions facilitate greater productivity and alleviate societal ills.

effectively illustrating that “social capital might thus have much to contribute to contextual explanations of geographical phenomena” (Mohan 2002).Spatial Values: Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization LeBoeuf |3 between individuals is shaped by. behaviors such as voting. and public health disparities. It is clear that baseball teams and knitting clubs are not catalysts for civic participation and that “pervasive social capital” such as gang activity is in no way beneficial to society (Mohan 2002). the contexts in which they live” (Mohan 2002). Furthermore. intrastate developmental differentiation. In a sense. This goes hand in hand with the fact that processes of uneven development are directly correlated to the fostering of social capital and civic participation. Previous studies have applied social capital to analyses of economic growth. involvement in community associations. There has been debate as to whether or not Putnam‟s generalization of social interactions in his definition of social capital is accurate. Civic participation includes. Civic capital can be most closely connected with structuration theory. thereby influenc(ing) the formation of social capital” (Mohan 2002). “institutional structures can make a difference to levels of participation. social capital has its own geography in that political participation and voluntarism exhibit differentiation in development and actualization on a place by place basis. it fits with the notion that “place is not fixed but is a contingent outcome of the interactions between agency and structure” (Mohan 2002). . and other activities aimed at fostering collaboration and giving individuals a voice in community based decisions.For the purpose of this article the definition of social capital will be refined and presented as civic capital which can be viewed as a form of social capital specifically facilitating behaviors that encourage greater civic participation and social cohesion. but is not limited to. and itself shapes the character of. government efficacy.

civic capital epitomizes the basic unit of analysis for measuring community formulated values and their projection onto the social landscape.allow the passing of critical thresholds for the support of institutions.strengthen social networks. From a theoretical standpoint. A libertarian argument would affirm fairness due to residents‟ capability to utilize choice (via the free market) to form property and social arrangements that are conducive to greater civic participation and maintenance of identity..Spatial Values: Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization LeBoeuf |4 From the perspective of social justice. evokes images of apartheid and the racilization of opportunity. . Racial Segregation: Sequestering Justice and Limiting Opportunity One of the most perverse and grossly misunderstood social phenomena. segregation. Studies indicate that particularly in an urban setting such residential arrangements “maintain cultural values. . The utilitarian point of view would support such social constructions as epitomizing the best use of function. In its purest form. this commonly termed “ethnic enclave” (Young 1999) segregation is just because of its voluntary nature and empowering effects. spatial concentration can actually serve as a mechanism for building civic capital by maintaining social cohesion (Peach 1996). voluntary segregation facilitates social interactions that cause residents to look out for one another and arrange themselves so that there is capacity and desire to address commonly held concerns.. .” Thus.” and promotes community engagement (Peach 1996). Evidence indicates that enclave segregation is a defensive strategy employed by marginalized groups to “reverse the power structure of outside authority. As far as civic capital is concerned. segregation is a voluntary and natural process that harnesses justice and functions to construct solidarity.

similar to systematic disinvestment. the practices and policies also deplete civic capital. legal and economic forces have structurally reinforced this difference. Frankly stated. Processes such as redlining have encouraged disinvestment from predominantly minority (African American and Latino) neighborhoods (Mohan 2002) and overinvestment in Caucasian neighborhoods. Segregation attacks marginalized communities from all ends. segregation puts the plight of racially marginalized communities out of sight and out of mind. the process essentially exacerbates economic disparities and masks itself from the advantaged. Not only does segregation impede assimilation (Peach 1996) .Spatial Values: Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization LeBoeuf |5 History illustrates that this rosy picture of segregation less often is what is actually put into practice. This is critical when examining civic capital in that many studies have indicated that economic stability is a determining factor in whether or not residents will be capable of building the social relationships necessary for collective action and participation (Mohan 2002). The function of racial segregation primarily is to “keep underprivileged populations out of residential areas of the dominant group” (Peach 1996). thus raising property values and magnifying the spatial concentration of poverty in racially marginalized communities (Young 1999). In conjunction with prejudice and social stigmatization. Individuals who experience preferential benefits are therefore unaware of the disparities because they have been socialized to believe their privilege is the norm (Young 1999). Whereas structurally imposed racial segregation functions as a locus for uneven economic development. These market structures therefore create an uneven distribution that increases accessibility of services and benefits in Caucasian communities while imbedding disadvantage in all others (Young 1999).

In the case of the Black Panther Party the urban ghetto‟s “space of dependency” lacked any substantial mechanism to effectively channel civic capital into addressing grievances. it remains a clear indication that social separation is increasing also. if positive interaction is not taking place…If segregation is increasing.therefore causing the radical group to utilize a strategy seeking “space of engagement” and greater control over the established. deep and significant divisions exist” (Peach 1996). imposed segregation eliminates any possible venue for political communication between differentiated citizen groups and also between the citizenry and government (Young 1999). Most importantly. By limiting economic choice in housing you are limiting social choice and access to necessary resources for both human survival and civic survival. It can be argued that the use of violence and less “civil” aspects of civic capital were employed because of imposed segregation‟s elimination of an avenue to engage in mainstream political process. Most importantly from an egalitarian perspective imposed segregation is loaded with marginalization and social ordering (Young 1999). The absence of such a venue can also determine the effectiveness and strategy used to seek an alleviation of injustice. Imposed segregation is of no utility to the majority of society (only certain elite interests) and the lack of choice eliminates all libertarian aspects from the process. “Time by itself accomplishes nothing. segregated terrain (Tyner 2006). If segregation levels are high.Spatial Values: Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization LeBoeuf |6 it blocks off channels of communication with different groups that are necessary to alleviate injustice (Young 1999). The principle of equal opportunity is violated on a variety of levels (Young . This elimination of social cohesion contradicts all major theories of justice. The impact of imposed segregation on civic capital is obvious.

The key area of contention in gentrification is residential displacement (traditionally of low income minorities in favor of middle income Caucasians) which is assumed to alleviate the social burdens felt by many marginalized neighborhoods (Atkinson 2003). Gentrification as a strategy is often portrayed as egalitarian based. the newcomers appear to be the ones less engaged and susceptible to broader partnerships and social relationships aimed at building civic capital.a clear violation of the Maximin principle. with newer residents participating significantly less and decreasing the turnout of established residents (Knotts 2006). . One study of economically depressed neighborhoods in the Netherlands indicated that after gentrification there was greater disconnect between government and prior to gentrification taking place (Uitermark 2007). More importantly. Gentrification: Expelling people. gentrified neighborhoods saw a decrease in voter turnout. In different countries studies have shown that there is less community involvement and social cohesion between individuals after newcomers arrive through gentrification (Uitermark 2007) (Atkinson 2003). However. In Atlanta. Essentially. imposed segregation deprives civic capital from those who are in desperate need of its benefits. transferring inequality A “politically loaded term” (Atkinson 2003) emerging in the realms of community activism and urban studies is “gentrification. It is assumed that this would inject social capital (and civic capital in the case of this analysis) via an influx of wealthier individuals into economically depressed communities.” a word that evokes heated passions and ideological imagery. evidence across the board indicates the exact opposite.Spatial Values: Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization LeBoeuf |7 1999). looking to foster community and develop true partnerships between various segments of society (Fraser 2004) (Atkinson 2003).

by limiting choice. partnership. and evokes such passions. Gentrification poses a theoretical problem because of its contradictory nature. “city and political elites. Qualitative and quantitative data has shown that these claims are baseless. In many cases gentrification is used as a method of structural change that functions as a manner of “civilising and controlling…neighborhoods” (Uitermark 2007). It can be argued with the above evidence that . It therefore appears that gentrification is less about social development than economic gain. Rather than promoting civic capital this created what could be classified as “pervasive civic capital” because it perpetuates injustice by limiting choice and enforcing structural barriers to cooperation.Spatial Values: Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization LeBoeuf |8 Why these instances are so critical to note is that gentrification is more times than not an induced policy. Similar to segregation it is an imposed policy aimed at altering structure. brought forth by both public and private forces under the banners of collaboration. for fear of the neighborhood being succumb to concentrated poverty (Fraser 2004). about gentrification is that frequently it has the exact opposite effect than marketed. gentrification naturally removes civic capital by creating structural barriers to social cohesion between different groups. Fraser states (through Mayer). In a sense there is a redefinition of “the meaning of a city and for whom it exists” (Fraser 2004). and beneficial utility (Fraser 2004). and benefits. after gentrification the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association launched an organized effort to oppose the entrance of La Esperanza. opportunity. rather than cultivate it.e. a Latino organization. community) over others” (2004). Just like segregation. Concerning why it appears to deplete civic capital. albeit not in lockstep fashion have prioritized certain forms of civic engagement (i. For example. What is so intriguing.

Government institutions have catalyzed this by adopting development policies emphasizing a neighborhood approach that looks at “not only „use value‟ for their inhabitants but also „exchange value‟ for capitalist commodification” (Fraser 2004). In essence gentrification is not a means of brining in “new blood” to improve social tensions. but also the structure of political and social landscape to function in favor of capital. Spatial expansion was therefore an induced response by financial institutions in order to increase economic growth and capital accumulation (Smith 1979).Spatial Values: Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization LeBoeuf |9 gentrification is not based on a values system of egalitarianism. . Essentially the market created the situation of urban decline by systematic disinvestment and is now utilizing gentrification as a way to further profiteering (or exploitation depending on your political perception of the situation). utilitarianism. Evidence indicates the gentrification is not about a movement of people but rather “restructuring (of space) according to the needs of capital. or libertarianism based on its damaging effects upon civic capital. but in actuality appears to have to do quite more with economic restructuring rather than civic (and social) capital. but rather to make money. it is argued. The capitalist system. This is a process that not only restructures the economy in favor of capital.” Data indicates that movement into the cities is not from suburbanites but from existing city dwellers (Smith 1979). What then are the values of “civic participation” gentrification seeks to structurally impose? Commodification of Values Gentrification is often discussed in terms of cultural changes and social improvement. has essentially commidified infrastructural improvements and land values.

was itself facilitated by the economic system. but also caused differentiated attention to certain areas. As alluded to earlier. While at first this may appear beneficial across the board. state.Spatial Values: Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization L e B o e u f | 10 To continue with Fraser‟s early statement (through Mayer) regarding the structuring of community and civic participation. redlining) were legally protected and often encouraged by public institutions in order to accumulate profit (Young 1999). Civic capital often goes against the values of capitalism. . and market in a peculiar way. as was illustrated earlier as a process depleting social capital. Segregation. which is conductive to supporting the spread of market forces in areas so far beyond the reach of capital” (Fraser 2004). the overinvestment in Caucasian dominated neighborhoods has incentivized the neglect of minority areas. If done correctly. There are numerous documented cases of local officials in the UK and US directing the settlement of racial minorities into certain zones as a way to profit from more homogeneous Caucasian neighborhoods (Peach 1996). This in turn causes property values to skyrocket (Young 1999). it goes against the principles of competition and individualism. he states this is done in a manner that “filters the contemporary reconfigurations in the relationship of civil society. civic capital is distributed in a communitarian/egalitarian manner in an effort to promote social cohesion and collaboration. Racial steering and the manipulation of the housing market (block busting. This indicates there is a direct link between economic structure and the facilitation of civic capital. it facilitates gentrification and further depletion of civic capital. Segregation and the value the market placed on Caucasian homogeneity has not only created an unequal distribution of resources necessary for civic capital development.

Furthermore. and benefit the privileged rather than those in need. What the before mentioned examples illustrate is how our values of justice have been commidified. support unequal distributions. The processes are imposed on the spatial structure in that they limit choice and opportunity. The effects of both processes ultimately further inequality by preventing social cohesion and demobilizing prospects of collaborative group formations. Both segregation and gentrification counter basic values of social justice. Does capitalism have an ethic of care? Society is now left to address declines in civic engagement and social cohesion in a system that functions to break these bonds in exchange for profit. both function in a way to deprive individuals of self actualization and liberation from oppression by structuring the environment to impede civic participation. These processes are not natural. but rather represent the commodification of space facilitated by the capitalist system and supported by both public and private interests. We as individuals have further commidified ourselves by inducing civic demobilization.Spatial Values: Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization L e B o e u f | 11 Conclusion: Justifying Demobilization Segregation and gentrification are structural forces imposed on communities functioning in a manner that catalyzes the depletion of civic capital. . Instead the capitalist system has structured community and engagement in a way to continue the accumulation of profit. When questions of justice arise will society be able to recognize and address the concern? Or have we structured our spaces in a way that keeps us ignorant of the true meaning of social justice? This can be answered only if there is enough flexibility to begin accumulating civic capital.

"Misunderstood Savious or Vengeful Wrecker? The Many Meanings and Problems of Gentrification. . Knotts. 2004. Young. "Toward a Theory of Gentrification A Back to the City Movement of Capital." Social Science Quarterly." Environment and Planning. Ceri. James. Justus and Jan Willem Duyvendek. Uitermark. 2006. 2007: 125-141. Iris Marion. "Residential Segregation and Differentiated Citizenship.University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Smith. "Good segregation.Gibbs and Moshe Haspel. "Defend the Ghetto": Space and the Urban Politics of the Black Panther Party. "Gentrification as a government stratefy: social control and social cohesion in Hoogvliet. Center for Urban and Regional Studies. not People. Peach. 1979: 538-548. Fraser. "Placing social capital. bad segregation. 1996: 379-398. 2006. Tyner.Spatial Values: Civic Capital and Structural Demobilization L e B o e u f | 12 Works Cited Atkinson. Rotterdam. Rowland. 1999." Journal of the American Planning Association. 2003: 2343-2350." Urban Studies. "The Impact of Gentrification on Voter Turnout. Neil. James. Mohan. Kent University. Beyond Gentrification: Mobilizing Communities and Claiming Space. 2002: 191-210." Citizenship Studies. Giles and John Mohan. H." Progress in Human Geography." Planning Perspectives.

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