Safety and agonistic conceptions of public life

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This paper seeks to enable for conceptual resistance towards a desirable urban order of ‘safe public realms’, to which the ‘planning for safety’ directly contributes. One way of engaging in that kind of resistance is by contributing to politicising the system of beliefs informing planning for safety. Planning for safety is primarily legitimised morally as the ethically right thing to do given the identified violation of a human right in the public realm, the right to freely move about in the public environment. By drawing from Mouffean agonistic political theory (2005), there is no given interpretation nor implementation of ethical principles such as human rights, but rather different interpretations given what point of reference one is departing from, and should hence be subjected to political struggle. To conceptually set the arena for choice contributes to politicising phenomena which previously have been legitimised as the right or the (only) natural thing to do. ‘Planning for safety’ should therefore be interpreted resting on specific ideological assumptions of public life which frames both how ‘the human right’ is conceptualised as well as what planning solutions are considered possible.This article seeks to establish alternative conceptualisations of public life, with an aim to make visible how there is not one notion of public life and thereby re-politicise the ideolo-gical premises underpinning ‘safety planning’ and thereby allow for conceptual resistance. This is carried out by establishing a discursive field of public life, a kind of conceptual arena for choice making. The discursive field is represented by four different discourses of public life centred around different ideals such as rational, dramaturgical, conflictual and consensual public life. In this conceptual context, lines of conflict have been discerned based on a thematic of purpose, character, criteria for participation and conception of identities, which have taken the form of agonistic dimensions, from which planning discursively can position itself. This paper argues that we first must agonistically agree on what notion of public life should govern the development of our cities, and thereafter discuss what the consequences would be for planning.
plaNext-Next Generation Planning Vol. 1 (2015): Cities that talk, page 50-64
safety, public life, agonistic pluralism
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