Avner de Shalit (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): "What is inequality in the city?"

Fri, Mar 9, 2018, 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
Location: 
301 Marx Hall

This is a joint paper with Jonathan Wolff (Oxford).

ABSTRACT: For various economic and political reasons, many firms and governments are interested in ranking cities according to how egalitarian they are. However, how should inequality in cities be measured? At the moment it is done by applying the Gini Index, which is used to measure inequality in states as well. But this does not make sense in cities, for several reasons which I shall explore. Moreover, cities as political and social institutions are very different from states, and our expectations from the city as city-zens are very different from our expectations from states as citizens. So in order to find out what we should measure when we study inequality in cities, we need to think of the urban experience and what matters to people as urbanites. We should also ask what can we reasonably expect the municipality to do in order to reduce inequality in the city. I discuss these questions normatively and philosophically, following a study I conducted in London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Avner de Shalit is the Max Kampelman Professor of Democracy and Human Rights at the department of political science, the Hebrew University. Since his D.Phil. in Oxford (1990) he has been working on environmental philosophy, urban political theory, and issues of poverty and inequality. He is the author of 8 books, among them Why Posterity Matters (Routledge), The Environment: Between Theory and Practice (Oxford UP), Disadvantage (Oxford UP, co-authored with Jonathan Wolff), The Spirit of Cities (Princeton UP, co-authored with Daniel Bell), and most recently Cities and Immigration (forthcoming). In all these works he has been applying his method of doing political philosophy, which he calls 'Public Reflective Equilibrium' and which begins with dozens of discussions of the topic he studies with the general public. Avner served as head of department and also as dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Hebrew University. In 2014 He was awarded the Rothschild Prize in the Social Sciences. In 2013 his co-authored (with Daniel Bell) book The Spirit of Cities, which was translated to Chinese,  won a prize, sponsored by Xinhua.net, for being one of the ten most influential non-fiction books in that year in China.