Problematizing Planning: Critical and Effective Genealogies

Authored by: Margo Huxley

The Ashgate Research Companion to Planning Theory

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754672548
eBook ISBN: 9781315279251
Adobe ISBN: 9781315279244


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It may seem odd to bring history into debates about the relations between theory and practice in spatial planning, but if so, then this is an odd chapter. In it, I want to revisit suggestions (e.g. Boyer 1983; Fischler 1998b, 2000) that planning history as it has been conventionally told, contributes to an unquestioning acceptance of something called ‘planning’ that has identifiable points of origin and a more-or-less continuous identity over time. According to these narratives, if planning has not always been as ‘good’ or socially just as it might, could or should be – if it has a ‘dark side’ that needs to be acknowledged – these are unfortunate occurrences that can, and indeed must, be rectified. But such histories, of taken-for-granted yet disparate set of practices, tend to gloss over the contingent discursive and practical struggles through which ‘planning’ has come into being as a form of spatial government, an academic discipline and as a self-fashioning of both practitioners and ‘participants’ (that is, anyone who has to deal with or is affected by land use/spatial planning). Planning history (in the singular) as a seamless narrative, obscures opportunities for creative disruptions of the present, and plays a part in uncritical repetition, both of theoretical assumptions and of regulatory practices.

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