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Ideology, tradition and social development : a study on critical and hermeneutical theories of planning Yeechong, Wayne


Recent planning literature raises important questions about the objectivity of knowledge and the relationships among theory, experience and practice. Social learning theories of planning, in particular, are concerned with these matters. Two current German schools of philosophy, critical theory and hermeneuties, as developed by Jiirgen Habermas and Hans-GeOrg Gadamer respectively, have examined these matters in great detail. However, it appears that planning theorists have not given these schools the attention they deserve. The present study explores concepts in critical theory and hermeneutics as they relate to the field of planning. It intends to contribute to current discussions in social learning theories. In addition to interpreting ideas of the two schools, the study aims at critically examining these ideas. Hence it includes an analysis of the debate between Habermas and Gadamer as well as that between two commentators. Finally the study discusses how critical theory and hermeneutics might contribute to the field of planning and why some of the concepts in these two schools have to be further developed before they can address planning issues directly. With the help of concepts in critical theory and hermeneutics, this study attempts to situate the planning process in the context of social evolution. It finds that Habermas raises questions pertinent to planning: conflict of interests, spontaneity, nature-human relations and relations among humans. Yet his answers are not always satisfactory. His assumption of suppressed generalizable interests and his use of reconstructive sciences are not entirely convincing. Gadamer stresses the significance of cultural tradition in society and people's self-understanding of their tradition. His argument leads to the following conclusion: a planning process which is not based on the self-understanding of the people directly implicated is bound to destroy social meanings inherent in that society. But Gadamer ignores some of the major problems in contemporary industrial society: conflict and rapid social change. In short, Habermas and Gadamer deal with different issues related to planning. Planning theorists should seriously take into account the ideas of both thinkers. This study proposes a theory of planning that answers Habermas' questions by employing hermeneutical insights.

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