Great Planning Disasters

Great Planning Disasters

Great Planning Disasters

Great Planning Disasters


In this "pathology of planning," Peter Hall briskly recounts the histories of five great planning disasters and two near-disasters and analyzes the decisions of the professional bureaucrats, community activists, and politicians involved in the planning process. He draws on an eclectic body of theory from political science, economics, ethics, and long-range future forecasting to suggest ways to forestall such grand mistakes in the future. For this edition, Hall has added a special introduction in which he reflects further on the sequels to these cautionary tales and on the moral planners and citizens should draw from them.


Writing this proved far from easy. I have tried to make it digestible, so I hope that reading it will be easier.

My problem has been this. I wanted to do two things: first, to tell some tales about a few selected ‘Great Planning Disasters’ ; secondly, to help explain them in terms of an eclectic body of theory culled from the borderland of political science, welfare economics, social psychology and ethics. the first was simple enough, but without the second it was just higher journalism; and the second was very difficult.

This could be simply because I was unable to handle the necessary level of theoretical abstraction. I am reminded of a story about Alfred Hitchcock, who back in the 1930s made a musical: ‘I hate this sort of thing,’ he is reputed to have said; ‘melodrama is the only thing I can do.’ But I think that the problem is more elusive : it is that I wanted to make the theory accessible to a group of readers, including planners, bureaucrats and officials, who otherwise would almost certainly never hear of it. and the theory proved not merely eclectic, but in many places highly esoteric.

I’ve done my best with it. If even just a few practical people come to realize that the theory helps to illuminate what they are doing, and even call this into question, then perhaps it will all have been worth while.

I have been powerfully aided over a five-year stint by a number of people. First, as always, by the anonymous librarians in many places: the British Library Reference Division (or, as it will always be for most of its devotees, the bm Reading Room), the British Library of Political and Economic Science, the University . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.