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Justice et injustices spatiales

 | 
Bernard Bret
, 
Philippe Gervais-Lambony
, 
Claire Hancock
, 
et al.

Approches théoriques

A Theory of Justice as Ethical Consumption: Ethical Materialism and Spatial Justice in the American Context

Jim Josefson

Texte intégral

  • 1 Harvey, David. Justice, Nature & the Geography of Difference. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 199 (...)
  • 2 Young, Iris-Marion. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Pre (...)
  • 3 Harvey, David. Justice, Nature & the Geography of Difference, op. cit., p. 321, 324.

1David Harvey, in Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference, set the terms for the debate about the spatial dimensions of justice that is at the center of this conference. On the one hand, Harvey suggested, we have a notion of justice rooted in the particular experiences or discourses of individuals or identity groups that express their uniquely situated claims. Resting on the phenomenological or post-positivist philosophies of Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and post-structuralism, particularistic approaches to justice are at the heart of the concern for spatial justice, for they focus our attention on the situated, local, and different spaces in which social processes operate not only to distribute resources and opportunities but also the social power to mold such processes1. The focus on the particular, Harvey argued, points to the particular experiences of oppression of different groups that was the focus of Iris Young’s theory of justice2. And it also points to the hope that the concentration in space of such experiences will politicize identities and practices with sufficient power to launch new social movements for justice3. But on the other hand, Harvey maintained, we must still have a notion of justice rooted in universal social processes that span time and space. This focus on the universal points to the possibility that justice is rationality, principles discovered by reason that will efficiently order and regulate the universal system. The result of these conflicting aspects of justice, particularity and universality, is, to use Harvey’s conclusion, “deeply curious”:

  • 4 Ibid., p. 332.

2Justice appears to be a foundational concept that is quite indispensable in the regulation of human affairs… Yet the foundational concept is held to have no foundation save as an arbitrary effect of arbitrary power in particular places and times. While, like space, time, place, and environment, justice is open to being socially constituted and produced, there seems no easy way to bridge the gulf between universalism/ particularity, between systematicity/ arbitrariness and between necessity/ contingency4.

  • 5 Ibid., p. 323-324.
  • 6 Ibid., p. 358.
  • 7 Ibid., p. 357, 361.

3On one level, this appears as a practical political problem. While a “militant particularism” may more effectively mobilize people to seek a local spatial justice at times, such a justice tends to preclude building coalitions for justice across space, leaving particular claims for spatial justice fragmented by the power of capital to modernize space, both through the universalizing dynamics of market competition and accumulation and through the universalizing neo-liberal principles of individualism and efficiency5. But Harvey, following a trope of justice that is central to my argument, sees this as an epistemological problem of uniting the particular and universal: “some sort of epistemology (unspecified) is needed to establish when, how and where difference and heterogeneity are significant6”. For Harvey, of course, that epistemology is a more multi-culturally sensitive historical materialism7. The purpose of my paper is to offer a different sort of answer.

  • 8 This point is similar to Michael Walzer’s argument about there being different “spheres of justice (...)

4I should say at the beginning that I don’t mean to say that my theory of spatial justice is truer than David Harvey’s or Iris Young’s or anyone else’s for that matter. All of the theories of justice that have drawn reasonable adherents, it seems to me, capture aspects of justice. This is not a relativist claim, however. I simply mean that theories of justice are only tools for reflecting on social life. Different theoretical tools are more or less useful for reflecting on different aspects of social life8. Such a claim evades the epistemological issue in hopes of escaping such aporia as the particular / universal tension that are produced by seeing justice as an epistemological question of what is right or true.

5This epistemological understanding of justice, of course, is central to the history of political philosophy. Generally speaking, theories of justice are rationalist, by which I mean that they inquire into what rules and principles are fair, best or true such that institutions can be rationally ordered as just. The beginning of this epistemological approach to justice is, of course, Plato’s Republic, in which the interlocutors agree to find the truth about justice by creating an ideal city in speech. The move makes justice a principle that is discovered by abstract reason. In contrast to Polemarchus’ attempt to define justice in terms of Athenian tradition, Plato’s Socrates argues that such traditions are only shadows on the walls of a political cave. True reason, the argument goes, comprehends the abstract Form of justice that emanates from the Divine. To the extent that philosophy is all footnotes on Plato, the other major theories of justice have operated generally along the same lines. The leading theories of justice – Kantianism, utilitarianism, Rawls’s justice as fairness, and even Nozick’s libertarianism – are all prime examples. Harvey’s call for an epistemological solution to the problem of justice fits, broadly, into this tradition.

  • 9 The term “ethical consumption” is close to the term “ethical materialism” developed by Erik Olsen (...)

6The interminable debates between these theories and the development of the new particular / universal aporia occasioned by postmodern thought have caused me to pursue an alternative to rationalist theories of justice. Our reluctance to do so seems born of not only the dominance of the epistemological approach within philosophy but also the conviction that rationalist theories of justice have been central to the advancement of justice in political history. However, the political history of democracy, at least in the US, demonstrates that they are frequently materialist; by which I mean that they inquire into what material conditions (what things people do and how they live) produce individuals and communities that exhibit the virtues of justice. Another way to put it is that they are concerned with ethical consumption. They inquire into whether a particular distribution of goods, an order of consumption with its attendant rules, promotes the development of character or virtues in individuals and the society as a whole. Whereas rationalist theories ask for what is right first and foremost (especially in liberal theories), materialist theories insist on defining the right in terms of the good that it achieves. I term such materialist conceptions an approach to justice as ethical consumption9.

7My purpose in this paper is to present a theory of justice as ethical consumption as an alternative way of conceptualizing spatial justice that might lead us around the particular/ universal aporia and give us both a new set of theoretical tools for thinking about spatial justice and a set of practical ideas about what sorts of conditions actually would constitute spatial justice.

Ethical consumption and republicanism

  • 10 Duncan, Christopher M. The Anti-Federalists and Early American Political Thought. DeKalb: Northern (...)

8From its earliest expressions in classical Greek and Roman writings to the English republicanism of Harrington, republicanism has been concerned with how certain kinds of restrained consumption inculcate good habits or virtues. Property, for instance, is central to the republican citizen not because it marks him as a sovereign individual but because it allows him the independence from the authority of masters and the imperatives of biological necessity that free him to develop higher virtues. It marks an individual as having the status necessary to claim membership in the political community as an equal citizen10.

  • 11 Burckhardt, Jacob. The Greeks and Greek Civilization. Sheila Stern (trans.), London: Harper Collin (...)
  • 12 Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War. Rex Warner (trans.), New York: Penguin Books, 1986, (...)

9The source of the ethical consumption strain in republicanism is in Aristotle. Aristotle’s position, in some sense, is a conservative position, arguing on the side of Polemarchus rather than Plato. For, indeed, Plato’s rationalism was a revolution in political philosophy away from norms of ethical consumption. At the center of Periclean Athens’ “middling culture of civic manhood” were norms of restrained consumption that made ostentatious wealth unfashionable to prevent aristocratic passions from corrupting the self-control that was essential for freedom in both the individual and the state11. Pericles’ funeral oration is a good example. We generally neglect that Pericles’ places the Athenian way of life on an equal footing with its democratic institutions as the source of Athenian democratic virtue. For instance, he says that Athenian “love of what is beautiful does not lead to extravagance”, a moderate consumption that uniquely prepares Athenians for the political moderation of balancing deliberation and daring12.

  • 13 Macintyre, Alasdair. Whose Justice? Which Rationality? Notre Dame, IN.: University of Notre Dame P (...)
  • 14 Aristotle. The Politics of Aristotle. Ernest Barker (trans.), New York: Oxford University Press, 1 (...)
  • 15 Ibid., p. 181.

10Aristotle’s rationalism is a defense of this traditional Greek way of life13. But the rationalist emphasis on theoria and episteme hides the fact that most of work in Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics is being done by phronesis, the practical knowledge that comes from the spatial and material practices of ethical consumption in the Greek polis. For instance, Aristotle says that if the good life “consists in a mean–it follows that the best way of life is one which consists in a mean, and a mean of the kind attainable by every individual”(Politics 1295a 25)14. The middle class, Aristotle argues, is in the best position to develop phronesis from the practices and norms of everyday material life. Those whose experience strays too far from the mean (e.g. “the over-handsome, the over-strong, the over-noble, the over-wealthy, or at the opposite end the over-poor, the over-weak, the utterly ignoble”) have a hard time “follow[ing] the lead of reason” (1295b)15. That is, not that they lack the intelligence necessary to find episteme, but that they lack the practical experience of the embodied material life of the polis that cultivates humanity.

11Such materialism or ethical consumption is also an under-recognized element of the Stoicism at the heart of Roman republicanism. The Stoic virtues ultimately come from the material environment, which reveals the truth of Providence. For instance, in On Duties, Cicero emphasizes the negative effects of material luxury on individual character. He maintains that riches are appropriate only insofar as they are necessary to secure public positions of honor. As the government of Rome is natural, the expenditures appropriate or necessary for high public officials are just. However, magnificence has the tendency to corrupt the individual and tempt them to public injustice. As Cicero explains,

  • 16 Cicero, Marcus Tullius. De Officiis. Walter Miller (trans.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1 (...)

Fine establishments and the comforts of life in elegance and abundance also afford pleasure, and the desire to secure it gives rise to the insatiable thirst for wealth. Still, I do not mean to find fault with the accumulation of property, provided it hurts nobody, but unjust acquisition of it is always to be avoided. The great majority of people, however, when they fall a prey to ambition for either military or civil authority, are carried away by it so completely that they quite lose sight of the claims of justice. For Ennius says: There is no fellow-ship inviolate, No faith is kept, when kingship is concerned; and the truth of his words has an uncommonly wide application (I. viii)16.

12The point is that just as the right kinds of material possessions transfer their providential virtues to their owners, the wrong kinds of material possessions lead their owners to the unnatural conclusion that power and wealth are good for their own sake. It is the “desire to secure” such “fine establishments” and “comforts of life” from the vicissitudes of providence that signifies a corruption of the good will. Of course protecting such republican virtue from the corruption of time is a central concern of republican theory, but this emphasis causes us to under-appreciate the role of ethical consumption in republicanism.

  • 17 Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Portable Machiavelli. Peter Bonanella and Mark Musa (trans.). New York: (...)
  • 18 Ibid., p. 278, emphasis added.
  • 19 Pocock, J.G.A. The Machiavellian Moment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975, p. 209.

13How these ideas are developed in the revival of republicanism in Machiavelli and Harrington can only be sketched briefly here. For instance, Machiavelli discusses the effect that the presence of “gentlemen” (“all those who live off the revenue from their properties in a state of idleness and luxury” and “those who, in addition to the aforementioned fortunes, possess castles and have subjects who obey them”) has on a republic (I. lv)17. Machiavelli insists that such men are inconsistent with republican government. Indeed, in a macabre aside Machiavelli intimates that “anyone wishing to set up a republic where there are many gentlemen cannot do so unless he first does away with all of them” (I. lv)18. Apparently aristocratic wealth has such a cancerous affect on the state that it must be cut out. Such corruption of material extravagance, the central concern of Machiavelli’s republicanism, on this reading takes on a significantly different meaning from Pocock’s moral decay19. Moral decay becomes an outgrowth of the material conditions of life rather than some abstract principle of moral decline sewn into the nature of humanity.

  • 20 Harrington, James. The Commonwealth of Oceana and A system of Politics. J.G.A. Pocock (ed.). Cambr (...)

14We see a similar underappreciated emphasis on ethical consumption in the work of James Harrington. In Oceana, he wrote: “There is a mean in things: as exorbitant riches overthrow the balance of a commonwealth, so extreme poverty cannot hold it nor is by any means to be trusted with it20”. Here republican life clearly flows from material conditions rather than from governmental structure, citizen virtue or Ciceronian principles. The key, instead, is a more numerous class of people of more moderate wealth in land, or an “equal agrarian”:

  • 21 Ibid., p. 33.

An equal agrarian is a perpetual law establishing and preserving the balance of dominion, by such a distribution that no one man or number of men within the compass of the few or aristocracy can come to overpower the whole people by their possessions in lands21.

15Here we have a very simple and potentially democratic definition of justice as literally flowing from the configuration and distribution of geographical space. Justice, for Harrington, is the broadly equal dispersion of land, and the attending dispersion of virtue, rule, and order that would result.

Republicanism and ethical consumption in america

  • 22 Wood, Gordon. The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787. New York: W W. Norton, 1972.

16In America, this republican vision of virtue through a particular organization of property became radicalized by the wider availability of property and the political mobilization occasioned by the American Revolution. In America, Harrington’s utopia was realized, as the availability of land meant almost anyone could get the property necessary to claim the republican ideal of independent citizen (especially after the Tories were shipped off and indigenous peoples ethnically cleansed). Thus, when republicanism was translated into the American context, it became much more egalitarian and democratic22.

  • 23 Onuf, Peter S. Jefferson’s Empire. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 2000, p. 14-1 (...)

17Thomas Jefferson articulated this view most famously. Jefferson thought that farming and rural life was an environment that created the most virtuous citizens. Government was to be organized, according to Jefferson, in a way that would expand access to this ideal and then absorb and express it in a system of participatory ward-republics23.

  • 24 Hanson, Russell L. The Democratic Imagination in America: Conversations with our Past. Princeton, (...)

18As this view gained dominance in America, however, its republican character became less tenable, more diluted, and liberalized. On the one hand, Jacksonian democracy extended the Jeffersonian republican ideal to all white male workers, making the Democrats more liberal by fusing republican environmentalism with a Lockean producerism. This tendency intensified as the latent conservatism of republicanism and its appropriation by the Whig opposition caused Jacksonian democracy to be expressed in an ever more liberal idiom. For republican virtues, the Jacksonians thought, could only be protected by proto-libertarian principles and institutions, which would separate the government from the aristocratic designs of economic and political class parasites. Jacksonians thus increasingly preferred natural liberty to republican restrained consumption24.

19Emerson’s political project was to create a new public philosophy that could resolve the tensions between republicanism and liberalism brought by Jacksonian democracy. On the surface, Emerson’s emphasis on individualism and self-reliance indicate that his solution to these tensions favored the liberal side, but this superficial liberalism ignores the deeper republicanism in Emerson’s thought that would lead him to lay the foundations of a philosophy that would seek to transcend both: American pragmatism.

20The project is already at the core of Nature in 1836. In Nature, Emerson, explains just how Jacksonian natural liberty is possible, especially how the unique American environment will call into being a new kind of democratic man who is simultaneously free and good. The key idea is that nature, which Emerson defines broadly as the unique environment of America, calls into being the heroic free American individual.

21We see this theme in the introduction to Nature, where Emerson claims the originality of his project as born in the soil of the New World. The point is captured in the most famous passage in the Emerson corpus:

  • 25 Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Emerson in His Journals. Joel Porte (ed.). Cambridge: Belknap, 1982, p. 10.

Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. Standing on the bare ground, – my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, – all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God… I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature25.

  • 26 Adherents of Free Soil argued that the United States Government should give western public lands t (...)
  • 27 Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Essays and Lectures. Joel Porte (ed.). New York: The Library of America, 198 (...)
  • 28 Ibid., p. 492. West, Cornell. The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism. Madis (...)

22In “Nature” Emerson provides a new testament for this church, a gospel for the emerging faiths of manifest destiny and Free Soil26. Many of the moments in this mythmaking are Platonic in rhetoric and content. But Emerson’s individual is too limited, too historically situated to ever grasp the Platonic eidos. For example, in the essay «Experience», Emerson insists, “We have learned that we do not see directly, but mediately, and that we have no means of correcting these colored and distorting lenses which we are or of computing the amount of their errors. Perhaps these subject-lenses have a creative power; perhaps there are no objects27”. Truth, therefore, is deflated from an ultimate idea that can be grasped by human reason and becomes an object of faith and hope28.

23Thus, for Emerson, it is the lived practices of Americans that are the basis for moral and political reasoning. This is a spatial and material account of justice, for the right is born of democratized space, consumption, and practices, which conform us into the moral order the democratic republic. Emerson’s comments on the Irish reveal the point baldly:

  • 29 Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Emerson in His Journals. Joel Porte (ed.). Cambridge: Belknap, 1982, p. 508- (...)

I like to see our young Irish people, who arrived here in heir shabby old country rags, after a few months labor drest so well & gaily. When a young Irishman after a summer’s labor puts on for the first time his new coat, he puts on much more. His good & becoming clothes set him on thinking that he must behave like people who are so drest. And silently & steadily his behavior mends29.

24On the one hand, this view is a strikingly condescending, but on the other it is strikingly egalitarian. But this egalitarianism doesn’t rest on some rationalist notion such as universal rights of humanity. Rather it rests on the pragmatic notion that equal material environments foster equal virtues. The genius of American society, on this view, is precisely because it facilitates ethical consumption for an expanding class of citizens.

25While Emerson addressed himself to the question of how democracy and individualism can be nurtured in the Jacksonian world of wilderness, craft labor, and the local democratic community, John Dewey addressed himself to how democracy and individualism are possible in an industrial world of vanishing nature, deskilled labor, and metropolis. Given the fading presence of nature in American experience, where can natural virtues be located? Dewey’s answer is in art. Art can create public and private environments that, while artificial, may substitute for the ethical and democratizing power of nature identified by Emerson. Ethical consumption will now take place in the middle class home and in the public square of cosmopolitan civil society, the world of literature, inspired architecture, and museums.

  • 30 Dewey, John. The Public and Its Problems. Athens, OH: Swallow, 1985, p. 183 (reprint).
  • 31 Dewey, John. Art as Experience. New York: Minton, Balch & Company, 1934, p. 345-346.
  • 32 Ibid., p. 346.
  • 33 Ibid., p. 309.

26The purpose of art is to prompt reflection and to ultimately call forth better judgments. As Dewey says in The Public and Its Problems, “The function of art has always been to break through the crust of conventionalized and routine consciousness” so that real thinking can begin30. For Dewey, this kind of thinking is at the heart of progressive consciousness. Art crystallizes the imagination towards the first hope of solving social problems. He argues that, “The first stirrings of dissatisfaction and the first intimations of a better future are always found in works of art31”. This is why conservatives always castigate the avant-garde. Such widened consciousness makes the esthetic consciousness “aware of restrictions that hem us in and of burdens that oppress32”. This awareness leads to an elevation of critical capacities, not only for esthetic judgment, but also for all kinds of critical thinking33.

27The role of art, then, is to foster this reflection in the new American urbanites so that they can rationally evaluate the material conditions of modern life on esthetic grounds. The point is quite clear by the end of Art as Experience:

  • 34 Ibid., p. 345.

The sum total of the effect of all reflective treatises on morals is insignificant in comparison with the influence of architecture, novel, drama, on life, becoming important when ‘intellectual’ products formulate the tendencies of these arts and provide them with an intellectual base. An ‘inner’ rational check is a sign of withdrawal from reality unless it is a reflection of substantial environing forces. The political and economic arts that may furnish security and competency are no warrants of a rich and abundant human life save as they are attended by the flourishing of the arts that determine culture34.

28Rationalist “treatises on morals” are inferior to reflecting on the “substantial environing forces” that do or do not inculcate the virtues and feelings that make for the good life.

  • 35 Daniels, Cynthia. Homework: Historical and contemporary perspectives on paid labor at home. Urbana (...)
  • 36 Fraser, Steve. “The Labor Question”. The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order. Steve Fraser and Gar (...)

29Such arguments were the underappreciated theme behind the progressive challenge to laissez faire liberalism. The problem for Dewey and the progressives was that the traditional wellspring of republican virtue, land, was unavailable to the new urban masses and, while producerism celebrated the labor of the new working class, its liberal individualism forbade its political mobilization to ask for collectivist solutions to the evident problems of industrialization and urbanization. Thus a revival of republican ethical consumption, led in America by the women’s suffrage movement, progressivism, and the Arts and Crafts Movement, took 19th century republican values and recast them to provide a substantive notion of the good life for 20th century industrial America that would encompass the working classes into the new middleclass norms of ethical consumption35. If government could not act to ensure free independent labor it could act to make the virtuous environment of the bungalow available to ever more people. This was the sea change that eventually authorized belated welfare state of the New Deal. This was an avowedly consumerist and materialistic political project. It asserted that American values of middle class virtue could best be secured by providing government guarantees for ever-greater levels of uninterrupted consumption36. These arguments rested not on abstract Marxist, utilitarian, or liberal theories of justice but rather on the notion that it was just for the government to make the virtues of ethical consumption available to a broader class of citizens.

Ethical consumption versus welfare liberalism

  • 37 Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1971; Rawls, John. “Justice as Fairness: (...)
  • 38 Habermas, Jurgen. The Theory of Communicative Action. Vol 1. Thomas McCarthy (trans.), Boston, MA: (...)

30The dominant view, however, is that the future of justice lies in a revival of rationalism. John Rawls “justice as fairness” with its combination of Kantian deontology and social contract theory is the most notable example37. However, I believe the liberal idea that justice is the work of reason is, I think, doomed to fail. Just as Habermas has worried that the dominance of “instrumental rationality” may destroy the “life-world38”, I would argue that any rationalist theory of justice which abstracts from the lifeworld directs our attention away from the pragmatic task of tending the lifeworld in a way that actually puts the life-world at risk. In the liberal tradition this flows from the liberal insistence of putting the sovereign individual as rational producer at the center of thinking. While this might have tended practices of justice when the political economy of craft labor transitioned into industrialization, liberal producerism no longer fits with the global economy of fragmented flexible production, leaving workers without the cultural memory of unalienated labor on which to draw for justice.

  • 39 Hegel, G.W.F. The Phenomenology of Mind. J. B. Baillie. (trans.). New York: Macmillan, 1949, p. 229 (...)
  • 40 Žižek, Slavoj. Tarrying with the Negative. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993, p. 23.
  • 41 Ibid., p. 23.
  • 42 Ibid., p. 24.

31In sum, of course, we have the world of late-capitalism in which the disembodied universal right of capital operates without the compensation of a fair bourgeois consumer culture. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Hegel had this all figured out at the beginning in Philosophy of Right, where the market and the bureaucratic state together form “the actuality of the ethical Idea” first born in Athens39. At the dawn of the social contract we have the alienation of the individual’s will into the universal will of the constitutional state, but his particular will (supposedly) returns to him in the form of the law and consumer culture of the bourgeois state40. But as the historical dialectic develops in reality this is an “absolute freedom”, in which (sadly) “the subject ‘gets nothing in exchange for everything’. He ‘passes into an empty nothing’; his alienation becomes an abstract negation which offers no positive, determinate content in exchange”, lots of Right but hardly anything Good. Žižek points out that this burgled, empty subject is the subject of liberal rationalism, of Kant especially41. In the modern context, stripped of producerist values and any conception of justice tied to everyday ethical experience, this subject is supposed to freely recognize the “universal moral law42”. Increasingly this means a kind of justice that bows to the universal laws of neo-classical economics, liberalization in other words, rather than even any recognizable liberal justice.

David harvey

32David Harvey’s reflections on spatial justice further illustrate the problems of thinking about justice as an epistemological problem. Again, Harvey appeals to epistemology to solve the aporia set up between Wittgenstein and postmodern discourses, on the one side, which he says undermine efforts to create “higher-order” arguments for justice with their discursive relativism, and discourses of “social rationality” on the other, which he says do produce such higher order arguments but at the cost of marginalizing the different in a false universality or playing into the hands of the efficiency imperatives of neo-liberal capital accumulation.

  • 43 Harvey, David. “Social Justice, Postmodernism and the City”. International Journal of Urban and Re (...)
  • 44 Ibid., p. 596.

33The epistemology Harvey turns to in the end to solve the aporia is a kind of postmodern-sensitive dialectical materialism. Dialectical materialism, Harvey avers, “entails the application of historical-geographical materialist methods and principles to understand the production of those power differentials which in turn produce different conceptions of justice and embed them in a struggle over ideological hegemony between classes, races, ethnic and political groupings as well as across the gender divide43”. Now, certainly Harvey’s analysis helps to explain patterns of development and underdevelopment in space, but the question is whether the analysis gets us a concept of justice, which works politically. Harvey’s goal here seems quite Aristotelian and consistent with the conceptions of justice I’ve been advocating. He insists, for instance, that justice needs to be “a mobilizing force in everyday life” by clarifying our everyday intuitions about right and wrong and avoiding concepts of justice that “appear ‘hopelessly confusing’ when examined in abstraction44”. However, Harvey’s dialectical materialism actually leads him away from a conception of spatial justice that is more connected to the everyday, because it focuses on dialectical critique.

  • 45 Harvey, David. Justice, Nature & the Geography of Difference. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 199 (...)

34You can see this in Harvey’s discussion of American Progressivism. It is “undeniable”, Harvey insists, that municipal socialism made cities more efficient and better places to live for urban masses as well as elites. But his historical materialist analysis, nevertheless, gives us in what follows an analysis of why limited capital mobility in the early 20th century supported progressive reform, while capital’s contemporary capacities facilitate its secession from regimes of social cooperation. It does not tell us about what arguments for social justice animated the progressive movement. This is especially telling, since Harvey recognizes the role of the distinctively moral imagination at work in progressive reflections about justice, even that “‘city beautiful’ solutions” were just as central as rationality. But from here, again, Harvey goes on to critique, rather than arguing for justice in terms of the creation of new institutional arrangements and orders of consumption that foster politically potent virtues and moral values45.

  • 46 Harvey, David. “Social Justice, Postmodernism and the City”. International Journal of Urban and Reg (...)

35The same focus on critique can be seen in Iris Young’s conception of justice in terms of freedom from the “five faces” of oppression, or rather, in Harvey’s appropriation of Young. Certainly exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence capture aspects of injustice, but in doing so in a critical mode, we are left to wonder what sort of ways of life among the oppressed, practices that may even be significantly produced by oppression, nevertheless make possible the social cohesion, identities, and dreams necessary to mobilize people for justice. The focus on the critique of oppression gives us rather vague goals: we’ll have “planning and policy practices” that don’t exploit, marginalize, disempower, colonize, or assault46. The revolution is evidently going to be about getting justice, but what that is exactly remains unclear.

  • 47 Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition (2nd ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998, p. 1 (...)
  • 48 Slater, Don. Consumer Culture and Modernity. Cambridge, MA.: Blackwell, 1997, chapter 4.
  • 49 Žižek, Slavoj. Tarrying with the Negative. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993, p. 215.

36Hannah Arendt identified the same problem. Marx was primarily concerned with winning consumption for the proletariat so that they could be freed from the drudgery of labor, but he left both consumption and leisure untheorized as ways to freedom47. This lack of a theory for how consumption relates to freedom and justice further leads to Marxist notions of false consciousness, in which consumption is cast as antithetical to true freedom. People have not embraced radical movements for justice, the argument goes, because they are co-opted by the fetishized consumer goods of late capitalist societies48. But what such critiques miss is that the materialistic world of consumer goods constitutes a highly normative moral universe. It ignores the fact that the current distribution of property and consumption is central to the existing moral order. There simply are no “true interests” or “use value” that can be deployed to enact a redistributive scheme. In Žižek’s terms, all consumption is fantastical, so the Marxist project for mobilizing citizens for justice by disrupting their fantasies invokes only anger49. It’s as if the call of justice has become like the voice of John the Baptist, a voice insisting that we join him in an acetic wilderness of Stalinist public housing.

Conclusions: spaces of justice and the city

  • 50 Young, Iris. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 19 (...)

37An approach to justice as ethical consumption might more profitably draw on Young’s description of ideal city life as a way of identifying the qualities of spatial justice. It is especially interesting that Young argues that the material life of the ideal city inculcates four “virtues” (my emphasis) in citizens rather than reason or a catalog of abstract principles. These virtues, “social differentiation without exclusion”, “variety”, “eroticism”, and “publicity” are a useful place to start for outlining a positive project of spatial justice. Such a project recommends policies that allow distinctive identity groups the space to create the critical mass necessary to develop, express, and protect their own material culture and practices. Yet these spaces should not be too large or impermeable. They should be near other “scenes” where groups and individuals may be confronted with differences, which create openness to “unassimilated otherness”. Young’s discussion of eroticism is especially consonant with the conception of justice as ethical consumption and Dewey’s notion of the importance of material culture and art in stimulating democratic reflection. But so is her concern for publicity, as public spaces that allow differences to intermingle are invariably sites of ethical consumption (markets, plazas, parks) in which the esthetic qualities of architecture, nature, food, games and art draw people into discourse, display, play, and politics50.

  • 51 Ibid., p. 52.

38I might add that private spaces of ethical consumption are just as important. The neglect of private consumption as an avenue of justice and freedom is a great blind spot of political philosophy. Even a thinker like Hannah Arendt who recognizes the beautiful (“that is, with things neither necessary nor merely useful”) as an authentic expression of freedom, ends up deprecating ethical consumption. For instance, in an aside Arendt reflects on the French concern with beauty as a “modern enchantment with ‘small things’… within the space of their own four walls, between chest and bed, table and chair, dog and cat and flowerpot, extending to these things a care and tenderness which, in a world where rapid industrialization constantly kills off the things of yesterday to produce today’s objects, may even appear to be the world’s last purely humane corner”. She describes all this as if it were only a delusion on the part of the French, an “enchantment” which is small recompense for the loss of their “once great and glorious public realm”. “Greatness”, she says, “has given way to charm51”.

  • 52 Ibid., p. 173, emphasis added.

39So is there a serious role for the consumption of beauty in the pursuit of human freedom? Clearly, I think so. Such an ideal is synonymous with the ideals of justice as ethical consumption I’ve tried to outline. Indeed, I would argue that, whereas Arendt generally follows the rationalist tradition of deprecating consumption as a moral and human activity, I would argue that some notion of ethical consumption is absolutely essential to give politics and thinking something to discourse and cogitate upon. For, as Arendt says, “In order to be what the world is always meant to be, a home for men during their life on earth, the human artifice must be a place fit for action and speech52”.

Notes

1 Harvey, David. Justice, Nature & the Geography of Difference. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1997, p. 312-316, 330-333.

2 Young, Iris-Marion. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.

3 Harvey, David. Justice, Nature & the Geography of Difference, op. cit., p. 321, 324.

4 Ibid., p. 332.

5 Ibid., p. 323-324.

6 Ibid., p. 358.

7 Ibid., p. 357, 361.

8 This point is similar to Michael Walzer’s argument about there being different “spheres of justice” with different rules. See Walzer, Michael. Spheres of Justice. New York: Basic Books, 1983.

9 The term “ethical consumption” is close to the term “ethical materialism” developed by Erik Olsen in Civic Republicanism and the Properties of Democracy. New York: Lexington Books, 2006. In this paper I use the terms interchangeably. Some examples of materialist theories of ethical consumption in American Political Development include the critique of industrial capitalism mounted by early feminist “maternalists” (Skocpol, Theda. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States. Belknap, 1992; Sklar, Kathryn Kish. “The Historical Foundations of Women’s Power in the Creation of the American Welfare State 1830-1930”. Mothers of a New World. Seth Koven and Sonya Michel (eds.). New York: Routledge, 1993; Addams, Jane. Democracy and Social Ethics. New York: The Macmillan Press, 1902; Baker, Paula. The Moral Frameworks of Public Life: Gender, Politics, and the State in Rural New York. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), the Progressive critique of capitalism inspired by William Morris (Robertson, Cheryl.“Houseand Home of the Arts and Crafts Era: Reforms for Simpler Living”. “The Art that is Life”: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920, Wendy Kaplan (ed.). New York: Bulfinch Press, 1987; Borris, Eileen. “Dreams of Brotherhood and Beauty: The Social Ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement”. “The Art that is Life”: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920, Wendy Kaplan (ed.), New York: Bulfinch Press, 1987), and arguments of New Dealers that Keynesianism would spread the virtues of bourgeois culture to the restive work-ingclass (Fraser, Steve.“The Labor Question”. The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle (eds.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989; Hanson, Russell L. The Democratic Imagination in America: Conversations with our Past. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985; Mettler, Suzanne. Dividing Citizens: Gender and Federalism in New Deal Public Policy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998; Skocpol, 1992).

10 Duncan, Christopher M. The Anti-Federalists and Early American Political Thought. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1995, p. 42-61.

11 Burckhardt, Jacob. The Greeks and Greek Civilization. Sheila Stern (trans.), London: Harper Collins, 1998, p. 259; Morris, Ian. Archeology as Cultural History: Words and Things in Iron Age Greece. Malden, Ma.: Blackwell, 2000, p. 112-116, 164-168; Davidson, James N. Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passion of Classical Athens. New York: St. Martins Press, 1998, p. 238-246.

12 Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War. Rex Warner (trans.), New York: Penguin Books, 1986, p. 146-147.

13 Macintyre, Alasdair. Whose Justice? Which Rationality? Notre Dame, IN.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988, chapter 6.

14 Aristotle. The Politics of Aristotle. Ernest Barker (trans.), New York: Oxford University Press, 1958, p. 180, emphasis added.

15 Ibid., p. 181.

16 Cicero, Marcus Tullius. De Officiis. Walter Miller (trans.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1913, p. 25-26.

17 Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Portable Machiavelli. Peter Bonanella and Mark Musa (trans.). New York: Penguin Books, 1979, p. 277.

18 Ibid., p. 278, emphasis added.

19 Pocock, J.G.A. The Machiavellian Moment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975, p. 209.

20 Harrington, James. The Commonwealth of Oceana and A system of Politics. J.G.A. Pocock (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 77.

21 Ibid., p. 33.

22 Wood, Gordon. The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787. New York: W W. Norton, 1972.

23 Onuf, Peter S. Jefferson’s Empire. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 2000, p. 14-15, 163-163; Matthews Richard K., The Radical Politics of Thomas Jefferson: A Revisionist View. Lawrence, KA: University of Kansas Press, 1984.

24 Hanson, Russell L. The Democratic Imagination in America: Conversations with our Past. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985, p. 121-154.

25 Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Emerson in His Journals. Joel Porte (ed.). Cambridge: Belknap, 1982, p. 10.

26 Adherents of Free Soil argued that the United States Government should give western public lands to small farmers as a panacea to the problems of American industrialization. Migration to these farms would ease labor competition in the East, resulting in rising wages both for farm and industrial labor. At the same time a protective tariff would stimulate manufacturing growth, raise competition for farm labor, and increase the demand (and price) for farm commodities. The result would be a broadly diversified and decentralized economy based on small manufacturing centers allied with supporting agricultural economies. Social harmony and prosperity would reign as this new balance between agriculture and industry was established. As Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune wrote, “The public lands [of the West] are the great regulator of the relations between Labor and Capital, the safety valve of our industrial and social engine” (FONER, Eric. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: the Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970, p. 27). Free Soil thus relies on a frontier myth, for which Emerson is partly responsible (WEST, Cornell. The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989, p. 20).

27 Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Essays and Lectures. Joel Porte (ed.). New York: The Library of America, 1983, p. 487.

28 Ibid., p. 492. West, Cornell. The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.

29 Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Emerson in His Journals. Joel Porte (ed.). Cambridge: Belknap, 1982, p. 508-509.

30 Dewey, John. The Public and Its Problems. Athens, OH: Swallow, 1985, p. 183 (reprint).

31 Dewey, John. Art as Experience. New York: Minton, Balch & Company, 1934, p. 345-346.

32 Ibid., p. 346.

33 Ibid., p. 309.

34 Ibid., p. 345.

35 Daniels, Cynthia. Homework: Historical and contemporary perspectives on paid labor at home. Urbana, IL: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1989, p. 22; Kritzer, Amelia Howe. “Playing with Republican Motherhood.” Early American Literature. 31, 1996, p. 150-167, 152; Sklar, Kathryn Kish. “The Historical Foundations of Women’s Power in the Creation of the American Welfare State 1830-1930”. Mothers of a New World, Seth Koven and Sonya Michel (eds.), New York: Routledge, 1993; THOMPSON, E.P. William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988; Kaplan, Wendy (ed.). “The Art that is Life”: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920. New York: Bullfinch Press, 1987; Skoblow, Jeffrey. Paradise Dislocated: Morris, Politics, Art. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993; Josefson, Jim, Emily Tulli and Emila Sutton. “Synthesizing Republican Manhood with Republican Motherhood: The Arts and Crafts Movement in American Political Development”. Paper presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, Il., 2001.

36 Fraser, Steve. “The Labor Question”. The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order. Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle (eds.), Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989; Mettler, Suzanne. Dividing Citizens: Gender and Federalism in New Deal Public Policy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998, p. 190, 212; Hanson, Russell L. The Democratic Imagination in America: Conversations with our Past. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985, p. 281.

37 Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1971; Rawls, John. “Justice as Fairness: Political Not Metaphysical”. Philosophy and Public Affairs. 14, 1985, p. 223-251; Rawls, John. Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

38 Habermas, Jurgen. The Theory of Communicative Action. Vol 1. Thomas McCarthy (trans.), Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1984.

39 Hegel, G.W.F. The Phenomenology of Mind. J. B. Baillie. (trans.). New York: Macmillan, 1949, p. 229-238.

40 Žižek, Slavoj. Tarrying with the Negative. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993, p. 23.

41 Ibid., p. 23.

42 Ibid., p. 24.

43 Harvey, David. “Social Justice, Postmodernism and the City”. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 16, 1992, p. 588-601, 596.

44 Ibid., p. 596.

45 Harvey, David. Justice, Nature & the Geography of Difference. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1997, p. 406-410.

46 Harvey, David. “Social Justice, Postmodernism and the City”. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 16, 1992, p. 588-601, 598-600.

47 Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition (2nd ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998, p. 105.

48 Slater, Don. Consumer Culture and Modernity. Cambridge, MA.: Blackwell, 1997, chapter 4.

49 Žižek, Slavoj. Tarrying with the Negative. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993, p. 215.

50 Young, Iris. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990, p. 238-240.

51 Ibid., p. 52.

52 Ibid., p. 173, emphasis added.

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