Australian Urban Planning: New Challenges, New Agendas

By Brendan Gleeson; Nicholas Low | Go to book overview

6
Cities for sale: urban political
economy

In this chapter we begin our review of the theoretical perspectives and political movements that have questioned various aspects of planning theory and practice in the postwar era. Generally speaking, these forces for change in planning were international in character, taking broadly similar forms in Western (especially English-speaking) countries. For example, Marxism, environmentalism, feminism, managerialism and neoliberalism—themes we review in this part of the book—were sourced in international theoretical and social movements. ‘On the ground’, however, there were marked differences in how the various critical forces were interpreted theoretically and organised politically. Moreover, as we will show, there were important radical initiatives undertaken by Australian urbanists and activists—such as the ‘green bans’ of the 1970s (see chapter 8)—that influenced the course of overseas debates about urban governance. Our intention in Part II is to trace the origins and character of the main forms of planning critique, and then consider how they were manifested and applied in the Australian theoretical and policy contexts. We begin by considering the urban political economy critique of planning.

Urban political economy describes a set of distinct theoretical perspectives—including Marxism and anarchism—which are critical of how cities are created and organised by advanced capitalist societies. These radical perspectives on mainstream planning were originally drawn from broader critiques of the capitalist welfare state forwarded by social scientists and by grassroots political movements with increasing intensity from the 1960s. Three key contemporary political issues in the 1960s convinced many Western theorists and activists that capitalism was a fundamentally unjust and flawed form of social organisation. These

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