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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Planning in the modern state : a new synthesis and a programme for theory Carley, Michael


The notion that there is some crisis of public sector planning is common, and a literature review reveals this concern extends across the social sciences, and even to the conception and working of the modern welfare state. The dissertation links political science and philosophy with organisation theory to explain the parameters and tensions governing planning by the state, and proposes an agenda for liberal democratic planning theory for the 1990s. It is argued that these notions of crisis have a common basis in endemic tensions in the modern state which define the planning context. The instability of this context is heightened by increased turbulence in organizational relations at all levels and in the world economic system, and by readjustments in political values reflected in the election of conservative governments in many countries. The idea of crisis provides a useful beginning for analysing the problem of planning, an understanding of which requires a broad view of the socio-political and epistemoiogical context in which planners operate. The concept of planning crisis is broken down into constituent parts from which, it is argued, a more profound view of the context of planning is rebuilt, and from which more appropriate responses to societal problems are likely to arise. By devising a formulation that generalizes expectable constraints across various planning situations, an original contribution is made towards a partial theory of the institutional and professional contexts of planning action. First, planning is defined as an instrumental expression of the role of the state in society which attempts to assert the preeminence of the future in the present, in terms of control over scarce resources and private property for some greater good fostered by the state. Then the historical and philosophical basis for the role of the state is discussed in terms of factors which both underlie, and undermine, planning action: state power and individual freedom, social control for state stability, and the role of markets in terms of broader social objectives. The problem of planning is examined in terms of tensions between centre and periphery, economic objectives and political aspirations, opposing and confused trends to centralization and decentralization, and inter-organizational conflict and re-adjustment which seems an inevitable consequence of state intervention in society. In organisation theory, planning is seen as an attempt to manage change in turbulent environments characterised by uncertainty, inconsistent and ill-defined values, and an inability to predict the cumulative consequences of action. Analytic tools for understanding the planning dilemma are discussed, particularly conceptions of organizational learning, resources, networks, and capacity to innovate. The usefulness of static models for understanding dynamic planning situations is questioned. The discussion of the crisis of planning is concluded by turning to its epistemoiogical dimension, termed a crisis of rationality. This refers to the inability of social scientists to model complex social systems, and their seeming failure to devise theory useful to social action. The legacy of positivism and the concept of rationality in planning thought are examined. Three influential planning theories are analysed in terms of their contribution to an understanding of the crisis of planning and extent to which they can offer practical guidance. The conclusion relates the main themes to the current theoretical task, which is to build up a series of useful, partial, conceptions of the possibility for planning action from a realistic understanding of its socio-political context. It is argued that the crisis of planning is rooted in the inevitable lack of consensus about the state's role, and the efficacy of intervention in the workings of the market in terms of human benefit and social justice. This lack of consensus is also set in a fundamental relationship to the crisis of rationality. First, it is argued that planning theorists have a responsibility to explore the practical implications of organizational options at the state-market conjuncture. Further, as any conception of the future is an interactive fusion of fact and value, theorists have a responsibility to develop ethical frameworks and principles, which may help combine the practical benefits of market mechanisms in terms of feedback with a conception of the transcending social responsibility of the state and the need to 'embed' ethical principles in political culture. Second, appropriate organizational responses to uncertainty are proposed, in particular action learning, inter-agency ventures, negotiation, cooperation, and risk taking. Third, the implications for planning theory of the boundaries of social scientific inquiry are examined, in light of endemic uncertainty, the drive to unified social theory which distances theoretical abstractions from reality, and the lure of academic structures and rewards which inhibit the required holistic and interdisciplinary approach. A policy model is proposed which reflects the centrality of values in the planning context, the non-revolutionary nature of planning action, and the position of planning knowledge as a lever on the distribution of societal power, requiring ethical norms. In an appendix, analytic elements derived from the work are used in a case study of urban decline and planning response in the UK.

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