Culture Matters -- But It Shouldnt' Matter Too Much
Howell S. Baum
Planning is an effort to help groups reflect on their conditions, identify what dissatisfies them, imagine alternatives, and develop strategies for realizing better possibilities. Planners must help groups see themselves realistically, get critical distance that allows reflection on their past and present and recognition of different possible futures. How should planners approach this challenge, and how does the nature of communities affect the possibility of planning?
Communities have cultures, which prescribe members' relations with the community, orient their actions, and, among other things, suggest how they might use formal planning processes. Each community's culture, while partly resembling others, is distinctive. In addition, cultures vary in coherence and many are pluralistic. Multiculturalists alert us to these facts and some implications. Here we examine, first, the meanings of multiculturalism. The second section articulates a multicultural sensibility for planning. The third section presents a case study of community planning that illustrates predicaments of planning with groups that have strong, inclusive cultures. The final section draws conclusions for planning practice and education.
Multiculturalism is a pluralistic movement (see, for example, Goldberg 1994). For many it is a political, rather than a social scientific, project. It is useful to distinguish political multiculturalism from anthropological multiculturalism. To begin, multiculturalism has two components, represented by "multi" and "culture."
"Multi" represents two arguments -- one empirical, one normative. First, multiculturalists observe that the United States, as many nations, is an increasingly complex society, more complex than many inhabitants imagine, more complex than