Jonathan Wolff

Jonathan Wolff, Alfred Landecker Professor of Values and Public Policy and President of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, and Avner de-Shalit, Max Kampleman Professor of Democracy and Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have co-written City of Equals. It is free to read at Oxford Scholarship Online and offered as a free PDF download from Oxford University Press and selected open access locations.

While assessments of equality in cities have tended to focus on income, faculty member Jonathan Wolff and his co-author Avner de-Shalit shift the focus towards feelings of belonging and relations to others in their account of a “city of equals”. After conducting over 180 interviews across six different countries, in addition to a multi-disciplinary literature review, they find that how a city treats its citizens lays the foundations for equality.

Four values underpin their vision, which is brought to life by quotes from their interviews with city-dwellers. First, access to the goods and services of the city should not be purely dictated by the market. Indeed, they argue that “the right public support” enables virtually everyone to have “the chance of a life that is successful in some way”. Second, each person should be able to live a life they find meaningful, which might include volunteering or participating in communal cultural events.

The final components are around diversity, wide social mixing and finally 'non-deferential inclusion' whereby citizens should be able to access what they are entitled to without being treated as less worthy than others. In other words, they should be able to enjoy their rights without waiting longer than others or jumping through bureaucratic hoops.

The authors suggest that one use for this framework could be for cities to audit themselves, set goals and monitor progress.  They hope that the topic will attract the interest of scholars from a number of different fields to broaden and develop this field of enquiry.