When writing a book that seeks to tackle a large topic such as planning theory there are important choices to be made about what to include, in what order, and what narrative (if any) should connect the various elements. In recent years planning theory has been characterized by fragmentation and diversification with a wide range of different understandings emerging and increasingly talking past each other. At one end of the spectrum are approaches that seek to understand and explain the purpose and impacts of planning as a function of the capitalist mode of production (currently under the overused label of ‘neoliberalism’) while at the other end of spectrum are post-structuralist approaches that reject a single, totalizing way of knowing. There is nothing inherently wrong with this seemingly incommensurable and growing diversity (though see Allmendinger, 2016 for an attempt at fusion of these two positions) but there are there are some consequences, particularly when attempting to decide where to draw the boundaries on what to include in a book on planning theory. The first consequence of this fragmentation amounts to a challenge to the notion of planning theory itself. This goes beyond bemoaning the continued existence of a theory–practice gap to argue that planning as a social practice does not ‘need’ theory – it functions perfectly well without it (for recent examples see Talvitie, 2009; Lord, 2014). The point is that if the field of planning theory is so varied, incommensurable and unrelated to the practice of planning (which seems to carry on regardless) then why bother trying to theorize it? Rather than theory the practice of planning should be underpinned by experiential learning and reflection (which sounds suspiciously like a theory of sorts itself).
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