Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Urban Social Sustainability Trends in Research Literature

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Urban Social Sustainability Trends in Research Literature

Article excerpt


During the recent decade, scholars from different disciplines have discussed social sustainability within urban studies from both academic and policy perspectives. This paper aims to review the current literature and characterize definitions and trends related to social sustainability consideration of various urban units. The methodology used in this paper is desk research. Selection of the documents from different urban related disciplines - including urban planning, urban design, urban sociology and urban policy, limited to those published during 1993 to 2012. Social sustainability definitions portray either conditions of the concept or its principles and measurement framework. The review shows that different aspects in defining and reviewing social sustainability include social equity, satisfaction of human need, well-being, quality of life, social interaction, cohesion and inclusion, sense of community and sense of place. Reviewing studies conducted in different urban units, revealed that previous attempts on urban social sustainability emphasized more on community related issues. The majority of such researches examined the urban contexts of developed countries. This paper concluded that there has been little discussion on place related issues. Therefore, the urban social sustainability of urban places is the current understudied gap in the academic literature.

Keywords: urban social sustainability, definition, urban unit, urban place, research literature

1. Introduction

Sustainability is a context-dependent concept (Maloutas, 2003) that embraces three equally important (Spangenberg & Omann, 2006) aspects/ pillars- environmental, economical and social, which need to be balanced (Dempsey, Bramley, Power & Brown, 2009). Any sustainability discussions originate from the United Nations Commission on Environment and Development (UNCED) report, Our Common Future - known as "the Brundtland report" (Partridge, 2005). Since the late 1990's, sustainability has come to be the pervasive goal of urban planning, (Yung, Chan & Xu, 2011) and due to the growing urban population, cities play imperative roles in sustainable development (Dempsey et al., 2009). Among the three stated pillars, social aspect of sustainability is the least studied and, only has been seriously considered after the year 2000.

Scholars believe that regarding the social aspect of sustainability, there are still uncertainties in definition, criteria and measurement system until now (Landorf, 2011; Colantonio, 2010; Bramley, Dempsey, Power, Brown, & Watkins, 2009; Jenks & Jones, 2010; Hancock, 2009). Targeting the social aspect of sustainability, two irresolute conceptual interpretations can be identified, either related to environment pillar or distinct from environmental and economic (McKenzie, 2004).

The first objective of this paper is to categorize and discuss the social sustainability definitions, through reviewing the existing literature. Then in order to identify the current gap related to urban social sustainability, it reviews the scope and implementation level in various urban units in research literature.

The methodology used in this paper is desk research. Through that, a large volume of bibliographic materials was scanned and a limited number of documents have been reviewed and critiqued . The documents have been selected from varied urban disciplines- including urban design, urban planning, urban sociology, urban policy as among the articles. A comprehensive search was conducted among the articles published from 1993 to 2012, written in English and limited to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) database (includes Emerald, JSTOR, ProQuest, ScienceDirect, Sage Journals, Taylor and Francis Online, Springerlink, Web of Science and Wiley Online Library among others). Main keywords searched includes- but not limited to, "urban social sustainability", "social sustainability definitions", "social dimension of sustainability" and "sustainability of the community". …

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