Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society

By Michael A. Burayidi | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The Paradox of Planning in a Multicultural Liberal Society: A Pragmatic Reconciliation

Stanley Stein & Thomas Harper

This chapter points to certain tensions generated in the idea of a pluralistic liberal multi-cultural society. It shows how postmodernistic 1 critiques of modernistic approaches to planning can be reconstructed from a pragmatic point of view. Different ways of viewing multicultural planning (including a reconstructed Enlightenment position) have value in enhancing our understanding of a multicultural society and in seeking more just solutions to some of its problems. Thus, pragmatism (a) presents a different way of seeing the tensions (one that avoids the contradiction of the Postmodernistic approach), and (b) suggests a theoretical strategy for dealing with them.

North American society has always been composed of people with numerous different cultures of origin (including Aboriginal peoples), and has been enriched by a constant influx at varying rates of immigrants from many different cultures. In spite of this, North American society (at least until quite recently) has been characterized by a single dominant culture. This culture emphasizes a critical/analytical perspective, coming out of the Enlightenment, often referred to as "Modernism" ( Harper and Stein 1995a).

As Burayidi has argued in chapter 3, the modernist worldview and its associated universalist planning approaches (Social Reform, pre-World War II and Rational Comprehensive Planning, post-World War II) ( Friedmann 1987) tended to be assimilationist, pressuring all comers into conformity with the dominant culture. This approach has become more obviously problematic as immigrants increasingly come from cultures that are very different from the dominant culture; that is, they are "traditional" (nonmodern -- they lack the critical/analytical perspective of Modernism). The more different from the dominant culture is the culture of origin, the more wrenching the process of assimilation.

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