Robert Lake: Justice as Subject and Object of Planning

Robert W. Lake is a professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and a member of the graduate faculty geography at Rutgers University. He holds a Ph.D. in urban geography from the University of Chicago. His current work focuses on the politics of urban land markets, collaborative and community-based planning, the privatization of public policy, and pragmatist approaches to the politics of knowledge production. His previous research examined the intersections of race and housing, community development, and environmental conflict.

Lake was graduate director and director of the doctoral program in planning and public policy (2009–15); acting director (1997–98) and associate director (1998–2000) of the Center for Urban Policy Research; codirector of the Rutgers Community Outreach Partnership Center (1998–2005); coeditor of Urban Geography (1984–2008); and director of the Center for Urban Policy Research Press (1989–2011).


Considerations of justice have moved to a central place in planning theory following Susan Fainstein's eloquent plea in 2010 to elevate justice as the principal criterion for the evaluation of planning practice. Justice in this understanding is the object of planning, the normative end that planning practice should strive to achieve. This lecture explores the implications for planning theory and the practice of making justice the subject rather than the object of planning. This formulation places justice at the center rather than the outcome of practice. In this view, planning is the practice of justice rather than the justice of planning practice. A planning process with justice as its subject is anti-foundational and contextual rather than universal, anticipatory rather than reactive, generative of solutions rather than evaluative of outcomes, and culturally encompassing rather than project-delimited. Examples from a variety of sources illustrate the practice of justice as the subject of planning.

Cosponsored by the Department of City and Regional Planning and the Cornell Center for the Study of Inequality

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