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. 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.
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