Planning for cultural justice: Equality and cultural supply in the metropolitan space


  • Dr. Emil Israel Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
  • Dr. Tal Feder Technion – Israel Institute of Technology


Cultural Justice, Art consumption, Art venue, Capabilities, Tel-Aviv metropolis




Questions of justice are key issues in public discourse, academic research, and policy planning. Such questions are also pertinent to participation in the field of culture and art, which is considered a fundamental right, a central determinant of well-being, and an essential form of participation in the democratic public sphere. While art and culture are progressively being recognized as integral components of urban economic development and planning (Matthews and Gadaloff, 2022), several scholars concerned with regional and local development challenges have proposed basic principles of spatial-social justice (e.g., Abreu et al. 2023). However, the research on the normative aspects of spatial differences in art and culture is relatively limited and lacks a clear formulation of cultural justice. While this is consistent with broader trends in geography and elsewhere (for example, urban studies and planning) that theorize how just a place is (e.g., Israel and Frenkel, 2020), given that the majority pay less attention to what constitutes the right (i.e., the just), making their work lack normativity, deeper theorization in the domain of artistic creation is long overdue.

Given this challenge, we argue for a broader and normative theoretical framework that explores cultural justice and operationalizes it in a socio-spatial setting. The framework bases on an original normative concept that specifies cultural justice with relation to culture and art consumption. The paper’s theoretical development is grounded on a juxtaposition of Sen's capabilities and functioning approach (Sen, 1992) and Fraser’s distributive and recognitive justice approach (Fraser and Honneth, 2003) which are applied to the cultural field. The theoretical framework distinguishes between four dimensions of cultural justice - Rights, Availability, Encounter and Connection, and lays the ground for examining cultural inequality in a way applicable also to the spatial dimension. The present investigation concentrates on one dimension that regards Availability which is the distributive aspect of cultural capabilities.

The paper’s empirical application of this framework is based on data collected through online web scraping of performances and cultural events from ticketing websites in Israel’s central metropolitan region between 2015-2020. We use additional data from the Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics of socio-demographic characteristics of the population, such as educational level, socio-economic level, age groups, etc., at the level of spatial cells (urban sub-districts).

We conduct a spatial analysis of the populations and environment’s characteristics and estimate regression models to examine the relationship between the amount and types of cultural offerings and the characteristics of the socio-environments which these cultural events serve. The results of the models show the forms that the spatial inequality in cultural offerings takes and how it connects to questions of cultural justice in the metropolitan scale. The study presents a new perspective to the differences in urban cultural availability and, therefore, to cultural injustices’ contemplations. Beyond its theoretical contribution, the paper’s conclusions have implications for cultural policy at the municipal and national levels. Oftentimes, mayors, planners, and politicians adhere to normative ideas that promote a neoliberal belief, wherein regional or urban development is seen as a means for generating wealth rather than fostering human well-being. Cultural justice, as defined here, enables a return to the primary concepts of equality of opportunity, by considering not only the economic progress of cities and regions, but also how they uphold individual freedoms.