Pragmatic Justifications for the Sustainable City: Acting in the common place, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Pragmatic Justifications for the Sustainable City

Acting in the common place, 1st Edition

By Meg Holden


162 pages

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What can justice and sustainability mean, pragmatically speaking, in today’s cities? Can justice be the basis on which the practices of city building rely? Can this recognition constitute sustainability in city building, from a pragmatic perspective? Today, we are faced with a mountain of reasons to lose hope in any prospect of moving closer to justice and sustainability from our present position in civilization.

Pragmatic Justifications for the Sustainable City: Acting in the Common Place offers a critical and philosophical approach to revaluating the way in which we think and talk about the "sustainable city" to ensure that we neither lose the thread of our urban history, nor the means to live well amidst diversity of all kinds. By building and rebuilding better habits of urban thinking, this book promotes the reconstruction of moral thinking, paving the way for a new urban sustainability model of justice.

Utilizing multidisciplinary case studies and building upon anti-foundationalist principles, this book offers a pragmatic interpretation of sustainable development concepts within our emerging global urban context and will be a valuable resource for both undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as academics and professionals in the areas of urban and planning policy, sociology, and urban and environmental geography.


Drawing on the American pragmatic tradition and the recent pragmatic French sociological theory, Meg Holden develops a fresh and illuminating approach to issues of urban sustainability and justice. She perceptively discusses recent debates and persuasively shows how a pragmatic orientation provides a more flexible and realistic way of moving forward with urban planning. Throughout she shows a subtle way of integrating theory and practice.

Richard J. Bernstein, New School for Social Research, USA

In our pursuit of urban justice and sustainability 'despair is not an option' argues Meg Holden but 'willingness to compromise' is. Using anti-foundational, humanist, core pragmatic ideas alongside more contemporary analytical interpretations, she critiques sustainable development concepts, plans and policies and articulates a hopeful, moral platform on which to learn about, talk about and ultimately build sustainable cities.

Professor Julian Agyeman, Tufts University, USA

Why don't we have more books like this? Smart, theoretically astute, profoundly relevant, morally engaged, and thought-provoking. Meg Holden has written an outstanding book. Everyone working in the value-inflected world of urban studies should read this book.

Robert A. Beauregard, Columbia University, USA

In this compelling book Meg Holden charts a new pathway to the sustainable city, guided by the spirit and philosophy of pragmatism. In dispirited times, this is a much needed and unique contribution to those most pressing challenges in the urban age: justice, sustainability and democracy. Here hope is not the misty ideal of political rhetoric, but the hammer that must be applied to the anvil of pragmatism to fashion, at last, that most elusive object, the sustainable city.

Brendan Gleeson, University of Melbourne, Australia

Table of Contents




Chapter 1 Our starting point: sustainability and justice made urban

Chapter 2 Sustainability as a slippery and a sticky concept

Chapter 3 Celebrating the city, for all the wrong reasons?


Prelude: An urban way forward in a pragmatic view

Chapter 4 An urban shot at authenticity

Chapter 5 Empowerment in urban communities

Chapter 6 Risk and resilience

Chapter 7 Conclusion: A better urban life to be lived


About the Author

Meg Holden is Associate Professor in the Urban Studies Program and Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.

About the Series

Routledge Equity, Justice and the Sustainable City series

This series positions equity and justice as central elements of the transition toward sustainable cities. The series introduces critical perspectives and new approaches to the practice and theory of urban planning and policy that ask how the world's cities can become ‘greener’ while becoming more fair, equitable and just.

Routledge Equity Justice and the Sustainable City series addresses sustainable city trends in the global North and South and investigates them for their potential to ensure a transition to urban sustainability that is equitable and just for all. These trends include municipal climate action plans; resource scarcity as tipping points into a vortex of urban dysfunction; inclusive urbanization; "complete streets" as a tool for realizing more "livable cities"; the use of information and analytics toward the creation of "smart cities".

The series welcomes submissions for high-level cutting edge research books that push thinking about sustainability, cities, justice and equity in new directions by challenging current conceptualizations and developing new ones. The series offers theoretical, methodological, and empirical advances that can be used by professionals and as supplementary reading in courses in urban geography, urban sociology, urban policy, environment and sustainability, development studies, planning, and a wide range of academic disciplines.

To submit proposals, please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan ([email protected], twitter: @BrennanRebecca1), or the Series Editors, Julian Agyeman ([email protected], twitter: @julianagyeman) and Stephen Zavestoski ([email protected]).

Julian Agyeman, Tufts University Boston-Medford, USA

Stephen Zavestoski, University of San Francisco, USA

Editorial Advisory Board:

Dr Antwi Akom, Professor & Founding Director, Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Lab, University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco State University, USA

Dr Jayne Engle, Director, Cities, McConnell Foundation, Adjunct Professor, McGill University, Canada

Dr Ayona Datta, King’s College London, UK.

Dr Jenia Mukherjee, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India 

Professor Cheryl Teelucksingh, Ryerson University, Canada

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy