Edited by Michiel Bliemer, Corinne Mulley and Claudine J. Moutou
Chapter 2: History and theory of urban planning and policy
Urban planning is as old as cities; but its evolution into an institutionalized professional practice only started in the early twentieth century and its consolidation into an academic discipline in the mid-1950s. This overview traces this trajectory while providing an account of major developments in the field. Starting with a brief reference to the period immediately anteceding modern urban planning, I focus on its history and theory in the past century, highlighting selected developments, major systemic factors and social forces competing for control of the direction of cities. As readers know, theories and events can be narrated in many ways; they can focus on individuals, approaches, paradigms, visions, political economies, or events. No matter which route we take, the telling of a story and the inclusion of this or that rationalization and event constitute choices. This is even more complicated in the case of urban planning: rather than a unified field, it is marked by contending directions (for example, left and right) and open debates (over the relationships theory–practice, academia–profession, between activists and bureaucrats or politicians, participatory and technocratic or top-down and bottom-up perspectives, and so forth).
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