Geography and ethics: justice unbound

Barnett, Clive (2011). Geography and ethics: justice unbound. Progress in Human Geography, 35(2) pp. 246–255.



Debates in geography often centre on whether it is possible or preferable to develop robust normative foundations for critique. But the relationship of academic analysis to normative concepts does not need to be thought of in foundational terms, one way or the other. It is better understood in terms of elaboration, elucidation and amplification. Theorizing justice from the bottom up in this way is consistent with certain strands in recent moral and political philosophy, exemplified by Amartya Sen�s recent account of comparative justice. Recent work by feminist philosophers including Seyla Benhabib, Nancy Fraser, and Iris Marion Young explicitly engages with the question of how to theorize the geographies of democratic justice in non-foundational, modest ways. The proliferation of geographical concerns in moral and political philosophy is indicative of the various ways in which concepts of justice are �unbound� from forms of containment to which they have often been subjected. Philosophizing about justice is no longer automatically restricted to a national frame; and neither are questions of justice contained within prescriptive styles of reasoning, opening up instead to insights from empirical social sciences. Freeing concepts of justice from imaginary geographical constraints and from restrictive rationalistic conventions presents a challenge to spatial disciplines to suspend their chauvinism about the use of spatial vocabularies in other fields.

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