Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society

By Michael A. Burayidi | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Tracking the Planning Profession: From Monistic Planning to Holistic Planning for a Multicultural Society

Michael A. Burayidi

A study of thirty-two planning faculty by Friedmann and Kuester ( 1994) indicated that the ability to plan in a multicultural environment is one of the most critical skills needed of planners in North America today. This response by planners may be due to the obvious demographic shifts that have taken place in the United States at least since the 1960s, a trend that was discussed by James in the previous chapter.

Urban planners have always had to address a diverse public in their work. Whether the issue is one of land use, the location of public housing, or business attraction strategies, there are always competing interests that planners must consider since every plan impacts people differently. Among the diverse publics that planners have had to consider include the needs and the effects of plans on people of different races and ethnicities, suburbanites and inner city residents, as well as people of various socio-economic backgrounds. The need for the planner to respond to a diverse clientele is thus not new. What is new, and what holistic planning is advocating, however, differs significantly from previous planning practices.

The dominant epistemology on which current planning is based is universalist. This universalist approach is predicated on deductive logic, instrumental rationality, a hierarchical social structure, and a unidirectional causal flow. Beauregard characterized this type of planning as "a totalizing and singular vision, the quest for an all-encompassing endeavor, and a pronounced elitism" Beauregard 1991:191).

Such reasoning is "mixed with the peculiarly American world view of a unidimensionally rankable universe, competition, conquest, technocentrism and multicultural assimilation" ( Maruyama 1973:349). Planning practices based on this perspective have failed in a number of instances to respond to the needs of a multicultural society with ethnic and cultural minorities whose worldview differs from that of the dominant culture. For example, many Native-American cultures such as the Navajo and Inuit believe in the balance of nature, while Asian (Japanese

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