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Fragmented States and Pragmatic Improvements




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Susan Fainstein’s theoretical stance was forged in the late 1960s and 1970s when urban political movements were inspiring young urbanist intellectuals. Her concern for inequality and social justice and her use of a political economic framework for analyzing them have remained consistent to this day. The evolution of her thought has been driven by her empirical work, which has led her to mis-givings about the potential of community empowerment to achieve progressive change for two rea-sons: neighborhoods themselves can be dominated by self-serving agendas; and when neighborhood agendas are progressive, they are unlikely to prevail unless backed by influential leaders. Although she does not consider planners as able to bring about major changes by themselves, she does think they can refocus agendas, oppose harmful policies, and press for greater equity. Despite skepticism that powerful elites will yield to the force of persuasion, Fainstein’s understanding of the state and capital as fragmented inspire a view that planners can work strategically with broad-based social movements and reformist politicians to build more Just Cities.


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Planning, Susan Fainstein, Social Justice, Community Empowerment