Exploring critical constructive thinking in planning studies

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One of the distinctive characteristics of urban planning as a discipline is its responsibility to educate practitioners who have to ‘go out there and get things done’. The world of planning today is seen by scholarly literature as an exciting, but also a challenging, profession in reference to the political economic framework which is dominated by authoritarianism, neoliberalism, informality, crime, fragmentation, depoliticization, and populism (see Filion, 2011; Gunder, 2010; Kunzmann, 2016; Ponzini, 2016; Ruming, 2018; Tasan-Kok & Baeten, 2011; Thornley, 2018; Sager, 2009; Roy, 2015). Although the practitioner’s role is prone to high levels of political and economic pressures in this ‘dark’ impression, recent studies have shown that there is a tendency among planning practitioners to push boundaries (Forester, 2013; Tasan-Kok et al., 2016; Tasan-Kok & Oranje, 2017) and even to become activists (Sager, 2016). Furthermore, work with planning students shows that radical critical approaches in planning education may turn into mere cynicism when they do not offer an analysis of problems or offer tools for alternative and emancipatory ideas (Tunström, 2017). Keeping this viewpoint in mind, and the theme of the 2018 AESOP Congress in Gothenburg, Sweden, which was ‘Making Space for Hope’, I proposed to place ‘critical constructive thinking’ in planning research under the spotlight as a topic for discussion with PhD students and young scholars during the AESOP PhD workshop, which followed the same theme of ‘hope’. It provided an excellent platform to debate for planning researchers on how to remain critical while still being able to provide constructive solutions in a landscape of complex social, economic and political relations and power dynamics. These are, I believe, also fundamental characteristic of planning practitioners and should be highlighted in planning education.
plaNext-Next Generation Planning Vol. 8 (2019) : Making space for hope 40-44
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