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About this book

Planning theory has undergone significant changes in recent decades. The revised and updated 2nd edition of this popular text provides a wide-ranging and up-to-date analysis of these changes, how they relate to planning practice, and their significance. It is an essential guide to current planning theory and the post-positivist perspective.

Table of Contents

1. What is Theory?

Abstract
Before we embark on any exploration of theory it is necessary to define what we mean. The word theory is used widely and can cover a variety of meanings depending on the context or use. For example, it can be used in a pejorative way to dismiss something as being impractical or unrelated to reality as in ‘this is all too theoretical’. At the other extreme it can be used in a more positive way to criticize a piecemeal or kneejerk reaction as in ‘this has no theoretical grounding’. Beyond its rhetorical use the word can also be used to cover a wide range of ideas or propositions from Einstein’s theory of relativity to the theory that the relationship between birth and the relative position of stars will influence daily experiences. The notion of theory then is a diffuse phenomenon. Regardless of problems with use and definition there are some general ideas of what is meant:
Theory is an explanatory supposition which can be defined broadly or narrowly. (McConnell, 1981, p. 20)
… a theory is not a theory at all, until it has been used in practice over a considerable period of time. (Reade, 1987, p. 156)
The main concern of social theory is the same as that of the social sciences in general: the illumination of concrete processes of human life. (Giddens, 1984, p. xvii)
In addition to the above, theory is normally required to include some element of prediction or prescription so as to guide action. Accordingly, theory could be seen as having a number of elements; it abstracts a set of general or specific principles to be used as a basis for explaining and acting, with the theory being tested and refined if necessary.
Philip Allmendinger

2. The Current Landscape of Planning Theory

Abstract
In Chapter 1 I attempted to ‘problematize’ the idea of theory and question some basic assumptions with a perspective that emphasized a much more discursive and socially constructed basis to the notion of theory. What I intend to do in this chapter is turn my attention to how the perspectives of Chapter 1 help us better understand different kinds of theories and how they relate to each other through a typology.
Philip Allmendinger

3. Systems and Rational Theories of Planning

Abstract
As Taylor (1998) points out, there has been a tendency to conflate systems and rational planning into a broad category of Procedural Planning Theory (PPT). There are some overlaps between the two areas that allow us to consider them in the same chapter. Like rational theories of planning the systems approach is concerned with the generation and evaluation of alternatives prior to making a choice (Faludi, 1987, p. 43). Both, however, are also distinct in important respects. According to Faludi (1987) rational planning makes the crucial distinction between formal (means) and substantive (ends) rationality that systems planning fails to do. Nevertheless, PPT is the label given to both systems and rational planning approaches.
Philip Allmendinger

4. Critical Theory and Marxism

Abstract
The essence of critical theory* is to change society rather than simply understand and analyze it. While there are many positions within the broad school of critical theory, particularly those related to the Frankfurt School of thought, we will focus in the first instance upon one main dimension, namely Marxist theory. I go on to highlight later critical theory, developed out of the shortcomings of Marxist thought, to come to terms with later incarnations of capitalist society and the failure of Soviet-style interpretations to protect and develop individual freedom. The key proposition of Marxist theory is that urban areas and planning cannot be treated as objects of study separate from society. They are produced by that society and, more fundamentally, have an internal logic and function that is primarily derived from the economic structuring forces within that society — in most cases capitalism. Put simply, cities and planning (including planning theory) are reflections of capitalism and at the same time help constitute it. Such a perspective poses serious challenges to many cherished concepts, particularly in approaches such as those described in the previous chapter. For example, planners often justify planning by reference to the ‘public interest’. According to critical and Marxist perspectives, there is no such public interest but only an interest of capital that projects or creates a state mech-anism such as planning to help it continue and give the impression of public control. This amounts to what Nicholas Low (1991, p. 4) has termed a dissenting theory of planning because it is highly critical and yet provides few alternatives to the status quo beyond dismantling it.
Philip Allmendinger

5. Neo-Liberal Planning

Abstract
Neo-liberal theory has been highly influential in planning and other areas of state activity over the past three decades. While many would not agree with Fukuyama’s triumphalism (1989, pp. 3–4), there is little doubt that the combination of neo-liberal economic and social authoritarian policies has become almost hegemonic. Primarily, this has arisen because of the political ascendancy and popularity of right of centre governments in countries such as the United Kingdom, the USA, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and Japan and an acceptance of many of the right’s economic policies by left-wing governments in France, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Nevertheless, the term neoliberal is a broad one that encompasses a multitude of different emphases and positions. There are significant differences between these schools of theory. Such differences come down to an evolution of thinking, the differences between theory and practice and the variation of theory, interpretation of theory and policy in different places. This highlights one of the more interesting dimensions of this particular school of theory, which is that it has been applied to land use planning in a more or less wholesale way.
Philip Allmendinger

6. Pragmatism

Abstract
Pragmatism and neo-pragmatism are highly practical approaches to planning. Pragmatism emphasizes direct action regarding specific problems — what works best in a given situation or circumstance. This has led some to accuse pragmatism of being conservative and blind to the deeper forces and structuring influences in society. In that respect it is the antithesis of the political economy approach discussed in Chapter 4. Pragmatism has its roots in an historical philosophical dispute regarding the nature of reality and experience. These debates need not concern us too much here. What is of relevance for planning is the ways in which a pragmatic stance is about ‘getting things done’:
Given the theoretical pluralism in planning, and the evident failings of most of the (theoretical) positions discussed to get to grips with the specific practice of planning anti-theoretical reactions are no surprise. Many planners are now desperately concerned to demonstrate their ‘relevance’ to local councils, to central government and to a highly critical public. The emphasis is on ‘getting things done’ … producing visible results. This is no doubt a commendable objective, but the creation of products in isolation from questions of purposes and values is ultimately a socially dangerous activity. It also makes planners more than usually vulnerable to the charge that they are nothing more than blind operators of the system within which they find themselves. (Healey, McDougall and Thomas, 1982, p. 10)
Philip Allmendinger

7. Planners as Advocates

Abstract
Although this chapter is entitled ‘Planners as Advocates’, it covers more diverse and fundamental issues concerning planning. In planning theory, advocacy is normally associated with the work of Paul Davidoff (1930–84), who argued for a deeply personal and highly political view of planning and planners. Such a view is usually contrasted with the more apolitical, technical and bureaucratic perspective and approach of, for example, the systems and rational approaches (see Chapter 3). The division between these two worldviews represents a cleavage that reflected attitudes in society towards the role of the state and what it was attempting to do with the machinery it had established to control development. Thus, this chapter is also about some fundamental questions concerning what planning is and how to go about it. It also raises questions concerning who the planner is planning for — their employee (e.g., a local authority), a wider interest or a set of values upon which a professional layer of skills and values is added.
Philip Allmendinger

8. After Modernity

Abstract
A central theme in contemporary theorizing around planning is fragmentation. Not only are the places in which people live and work characterized by diversity (what Sandercock has termed ‘mongrel cities’ [2003]), but also the ways in which planners and others understand and think about places and spaces has begun to reflect an underlying uneasiness with the ways in which planning and planners seek to unify such diversity into a ‘plan’. In short, as the world has seemingly become more diverse and fractured along social, cultural and political lines so planning and planning theory has had to account for and reflect such multiplicity. Rather than providing a way forward, much current theory seeks to break down and critically engage with planning practices. Indeed, the nature of much contemporary theorizing eschews single, ubiquitous methods and understandings. One outcome is to reinforce Thompson’s view that current planning theory is ‘impenetrable’ and ‘unnecessarily obscure’ (2000, p. 132).
Philip Allmendinger

9. Collaborative Planning

Abstract
Like postmodern approaches to planning theory, collaborative planning starts with the question: how can we ‘make sense’ of what is happening and plan for the future within a dynamic and increasingly complex society? When there is wholesale distrust of the political process, a fragmentation into single-issue politics and a plurality of positions, how can we come to agree on matters of concern? The problem for planners is that society is changing and changing quickly, while planning as a practice and as a collection of processes remains wedded to ideas and procedures from a different age. Central to these ideas is the debate over rationality. Despite attempts to improve public involvement and widen participation, planning processes remain dominated by instrumental rationality, born of the Enlightenment and modernity and typified by the systems or synoptic approach to planning of, among others, McLoughlin (1969) and Faludi (1973). This involves separating means from ‘given’ ends and systematically identifying, evaluating and choosing means in a technical and ‘apolitical’ way, as discussed in Chapter 1. The challenge to the systems approach has come from a variety of quarters, not least the political economy-inspired critiques of society and planning. But the normative poverty of this approach is still with us — how can planners work with disparate and diverse communities, reach agreement between them and formulate a ‘plan’?
Philip Allmendinger

10. Conclusions

Abstract
I have included seven schools of what I termed indigenous planning theory in this book that represent distinct but related ‘clusters’ of ideas. The relationships between these different sets of theories can be analyzed in a number of ways. I have chosen to draw upon post-positivist ideas concerning socially embedded and contingent foundations to theory and an emphasis on the idea of time and space, in particular, as being significant in understanding the origin, use and evolution of theory. While I think that this understanding has a number of advantages and fits in with the zeitgeist of planning theory and social theory generally (see Dear, 2000; Flyvbjerg, 2001), it does have a number of drawbacks. There are three issues that are worthy of mention. The first is the lack of an awareness of cross-cutting themes that are pertinent and significant in each of the schools. The second drawback is the lack of discussion of the ways in which different kinds of theory that do not belong to any particular school (i.e., what I have termed exogenous, framing and social theory) are used by planners. Finally, there is the over-simplistic representation of theory driven by the typology I have employed. I discuss these three issues in more detail below.
Philip Allmendinger
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