Residential Segregation and Rethinking the Imperative of Integration

In Sharon M. Meagher, Samantha Noll & Joseph S. Biehl (eds.), THE ROUTLEDGE HANDBOOK OF PHILOSOPHY OF THE CITY. New York: Routledge; Taylor and Francis. pp. 216–228 (2020)
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In this chapter I consider the place of the topic of racial and ethnic urban residential segregation factors into political philosophy. I begin with a short history of residential segregation and the ghetto, and their role in systems of racial domination and oppression, and remarks on the general neglect of this topic in contemporary political philosophy, including in nonideal political philosophy, which proports to take on examples of real-world injustices and inequalities. I then examine, from the standpoint of liberal-egalitarian political theory, what segregation, as a concept, entails, and its harms to individuals, communities, and societies. Segregation in all its forms (residential, educational, and employment, as well as in political and legal systems) is an instance of injustice and inequality and a major component of processes that maintain injustice and inequality, so it requires correction and rectification of some sort. Desegregation and integration are typically forwarded as solutions to the ills and injustices of segregation. They seem synonymous, but are they? To answer this question, I survey the prominent conceptualizations of both during the civil rights movement and the contemporary debate over those terms and political theoretical positions. In the conclusion I outline my partial defense of the idea of integration.

Author's Profile

Ronald Sundstrom
University of San Francisco


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