Territorial justice in latin american cities: between the objective and subjective analysis of urban inequalities

Lepore, Eduardo (2018). 'Territorial Justice in Latin American Cities: Between the objective and subjective analysis of urban inequalities' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


The analysis of justice at a territorial level requires a discussion about the most relevant social inequalities from the point of view of the individuals that inhabit and carry out their activities within cities and metropolitan areas. This is closely linked to the social composition of these cities and areas, from the point of view of social classes in their labor markets and various forms of urban inequalities (Mac-Clure, Barozet and Maturana, 2014; Link, Valenzuela and Fuentes, 2015). Considering these and other aspects, there is variability in the opportunities of individuals, when facing important and unequal barriers in relation to the labor market, with educational opportunities, land use, the quality of the urban environment, among other aspects. Global discourses and urban proposals are reformulated if a welfare focus, associated to its practical sense for citizens in their own social space, is incorporated.

On the other hand, the study of the subjective representations of social justice has aroused growing interest. In this context, the processes of individuation emerge as a key analytical dimension in societies such as Latin American ones. It is verified that an essential challenge for these democracies is to observe and process evaluations of the social, that are increasingly rooted in the individual. The growing interest in the issue also arises from the observation that not all inequalities are considered unfair by individuals. However, some come to be perceived as unjust, and when they do, they can trigger a cycle of collective action. The perceptions of injustice in a specific sphere can be transferred to others. This is manifested with intensity also in the territorial sphere.

In addition, the interest in addressing the territorial aspects of social justice from a subjective perspective, has arisen from an evolution in approaches to territorial justice within social sciences and among specialists in urban and regional planning. In a first stage, social justice in the territory was approached thinking fundamentally about the mechanisms that generate distributive justice in and between territories (Harvey, 1973). In a second phase, attention was paid to conceptions of justice associated with the decision processes and their rules (Fainstein, 2011, Montecinos, 2005). Other authors, under a spatial thought, understood as a broader vision of the urbanization process, have linked the search for spatial justice with the pressures and struggle over what has been called the right to the city (Lefebvre, 1969; 2010; Marcuse, 2010).

Sen's (1985) capabilities approach is one of the most relevant current studies of justice in the city. The concept of capability conceives well-being as the opportunity that people have to achieve what they can be or do. This covers multiple dimensions, such as those that have been applied to measure a multidimensional inequality within cities.

Nowadays, a perspective that is associated with a pragmatic approach in which the accent is placed on the actors' point of view, in its moral sense and in its own perception of fairness, has been gaining increasing interest in the scientific field. This opens a field of research and academic debate about what are the subjectivities of individuals in the interaction at the micro-social level, with respect to inequalities and social justice in the territory.

In this sense, this panel seeks to describe, discuss and analyze how aspects related to equity and territorial justice are expressed in Latin America, especially in three countries: Argentina, Brazil and Chile and especially in its main cities.

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