Issues in the Developing World
Edited by H. S. Geyer
Chapter 6: Communicative Planning: Experiences, Prospects and Predicaments
V. Watson Introduction Planners’ conceptualization of what they do has shifted significantly over the last few decades, from a rational scientific approach, to what is currently viewed as mainstream planning theory – planning as communicative action. Both of these theoretical formulations have emerged from writers in one particular part of the world (the United States and North West Europe) and are rooted in an understanding of these political economies. They are therefore based on a number of assumptions about the nature of both society and built environments which reflect these particular contexts. Nonetheless, these ideas about planning have ‘travelled’ widely across the globe, and the current dominant approach (communicative planning theory or CPT) is regarded as accepted wisdom, in both an analytical and normative sense, in most parts of the world where planning theory is taught or debated. It therefore seems reasonable to ask if these ideas hold (or are of any use to planners) in parts of the world that are very different from the geographical heartland of planning theory. The position developed here is that additional and alternative theoretical resources must be brought to bear to allow planners both a better understanding of the now dominant global urban conditions, and to provide a framework for thinking about planning actions. However, the intention here is to do no more than identify some potentially useful strands of theoretical thinking that will contribute to this shift, and to organize these conceptually in relation to the notion of ‘conflicting rationalities’. I argue that...
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