Towards a Topology of Planning Theories –Re-organising Planning Knowledge in the 21st Century

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Planning is an iridescent term. A glance at the literature shows how diverse the term planning can be understood, for example as state action, as spatial distribution of different zones or infrastructures, as governance arrangements of different actors, or as civil society engagement for the common good, and many more. Planning practice is defined accordingly in abstract terms in the literature: Planning as "linkage between knowledge and organised action" (Friedmann and Hudson, 1974, p. 2), i.e. connecting knowledge and action, or as an attempt to control the future ("planning as future control", Wildavsky, 2018, p. 128) or "planning activity as practice of knowing" (Davoudi, 2015, p. 317). Gunder (2010, p. 299) described planning as the ideology of how we define and use space, whereas Brooks (2019, p. 9) understands planning as the process by which we try to shape the future. These and other definitions do have in common a strong orientation towards the future (i.e. it is not just a description of the present), which is accompanied by a direct normative orientation towards action. As Alexander (2016, p. 92) already noted, the problem with all these definitions is not that they are not true, but rather that they are too abstract for a definition. These definitions are hardly sufficient in narrowing down what is (and especially what is not) meant by the term spatial planning. It is undisputed that the future orientation of spatial planning undermines a concrete analytical understanding, "the object of planning, future action, routinely involves the unique and novel" (Forester, 1982, p. 3). Nevertheless, or perhaps rather because of this, it is essential to explain the underlying understanding of planning.
planning theories, epistemology, 21st century, climate change, mitigation strategies, decision-making