Brief Considerations on Sustainability and Justice

By François Mancebo

Sustainable development is our major challenge today. What is even more challenging is to achieve both sustainability and social justice. In this adapted excerpt*, François Mancebo shares some considerations regarding sustainability and social justice, and suggests that sustainability policies should focus more on the social process of decision-making to combine everyone’s well-being and social justice.


Fostering a sustainable future in a changing world is a crucial challenge for contemporary societies. But how can we do this practically? One of the more challenging aspects is addressing simultaneously social justice and sustainability. The doxa considers that social justice and sustainability are perfectly synergistic, but they are not. Planning for one may produce redlines in the other: Sustainable policies often increase social injustice. In fact sustainability and justice are like two rival brothers, and this is particularly true in urban areas. This chapter focuses on the sharp processes of spatial differentiation and the many-fold conflicts between urban sustainability and social justice. Ultimately, the challenge is to design a new social contract addressing the social process of decision-making.


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About the Author

François Mancebo is the Director of the International Research Centre on Sustainability (IRCS) and the Director of the Institute of Regional Development, Environment and Urban Planning (IATEUR). Full professor of urban planning and sustainability at Rheims University, he is at the origin of the Rencontres Internationales de Reims on Sustainability Studies, an annual event ( His research aims at determining the conditions of transitions to sustainability, and particularly the linkage between sustainability polices and environmental and social justice. His latest book is Transitions to Sustainability, published by Spinger in 2015.


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The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The Political Anthropologist.


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