The impacts on planning
thought and practice
What can we learn about planning from the critical strands of thought discussed in the previous four chapters? What indicators do they give us about the future of planning as we reflect on the experience of cities and planning? How do these indicators square with the human values of justice and freedom discussed in chapter 2? In this chapter we pause to take stock, but also to move on towards a ‘revaluing’ of planning. We discuss what the four critiques are telling us about the content of planning and about the nature of planning— what should be planned and how, and also what sort of activity planning is. We do so with the help of some contemporary literature on the themes that emerge from the critiques: professionalism, democracy, the environment, and economic growth.
From urban political economy we learn of the essentially political nature of planning. Where pluralists acknowledge that planning is implicated in political struggle, viewed as ‘pressure’, Marxists say that it is class struggle. Radical cultural critiques add gender and ethnicity to the political sphere. These are not mutually exclusive arguments. The political sphere is imbued with class, gender and ethnic tensions whose dimensions and impacts vary across nations. In attempting to define itself as above and beyond politics, planning adopted the professional stance. Planning, however, never actually possessed the real source of professional legitimacy: knowledge and technique.