Equality and Justice

Whilst thinking about Henri Lefebvre’s dialectical relationship between “abstract space” and “differential space,” I couldn’t help but recall our conversation with Edward Soja during his last visit to Michigan in Fall 2011. At the doctoral student forum, Soja spoke about “Spatial Justice” and made an intriguing distinction between the notions of equality and justice. “Equality,” he said, “assumes the possibility of being completely equal, whereas ‘Justice’ asks: what level of inequality is intolerable?”

I connect this recollection to the question that Jeremy Till posted on twitter last month: “Is design activism just bad design & bad activism?” To which, I replied, “Does activism seek equality or justice? The former seems utopian; is bad activism. The latter engages diff’ences; has design potential.” This may sound a bit self-referential, but having participated in debates on pluralism and inclusion on campus, Soja’s nuanced distinction continues to resonate with my previous and ongoing experiences with advocacy and awareness-raising programs in Ann Arbor. I wonder what form this preoccupation might assume in the future?

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