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Review John Friedman : Insurgency Planning Theory

John Friedmann is one of the inventors of the field of planning theory. He recounts his
experience in a seminar at the University of Chicago, in which “this new subject, planning
theory, really had to be cobbled together from elements that were originally intended for altogether
different uses” (p. 131). In part, Friedmann could rise to this task of synthesis because of his
grounding in European political philosophy, combined with his practical experience initially in
Latin America and later in the United States and China. This book, which consists of his essays
on planning theory dating from 1973 to the present, along with newly written commentaries about
the earlier essays, indicates his openness to learn from and reconsider previous assertions,
modifying and complicating them, though never abandoning his overall normative commitment.
Throughout the book his erudition and range of reference are inspiring.
The first essay focuses on the communications gap between technical planners and their clients,
an issue that moved to the fore among planning theorists decades later. In it he speaks of the
importance of mutual understanding in the quest to “join knowledge to action” (p. 24), a phrase that
became the cornerstone of his approach to planning theory. In a later essay, he rejects the concept of
objective knowledge, since “knowledge about the future cannot have an objective character” (p. 39).
He further argues that action must be guided by social norms. Thus, both knowledge and action have
strong subjective elements that cannot be reduced to science and validated through hypothesis
Friedmann relates how he came to reject a state-centered view of planning and moved toward a vision
of radical planning (as is reflected in the title, Insurgencies). He dismisses the notion that planners
should be neutral arbiters between disputing parties, contending that their task is to transcend critique
and affirm positive courses of action. He, thus, defends utopian thinking, arguing that in order to
reject injustice we must have a vision of what is just. He is sensitive to questions of power and the
structural impediments to improving the situation of impoverished people but insists on the ability of
a mobilized public to transform structures. Nevertheless, although in some of the essays he seems to
uncritically accept the wisdom of the public, he notes at the end of an essay on civil society this
collective wisdom is neither inherently good nor bad, and that elements within it may succumb to rage
against those who are
One theme that runs throughout the essays is suspicion of the state’s dominant role in planning.
In his introduction, Friedmann talks about an epistemological break in his thinking, whereby the
planning agenda would be centered not in the state but in a mobilized civil society. Yet, in a discussion
of national differences in the cultures of planning, he remarks that, in the United States, where civil
society possibly plays the largest role in local affairs as compared to any other nation, “a side-effect…is
the weakening of city government relative to both business interests and a civil society that often avails
itself of the legal system to countermand public decisions”
(p. 197). Although he follows up this statement with the example of the successful effort of a low-
income coalition to defeat a Los Angeles plan to increase transit fares, he could equally well have
pointed to successful coalitions of White homeowners to defeat
state-imposed affordable-housing mandates. In fact, in those societies that enjoy, relative to the
United States, greater equality, better infrastructure, and more access to health care, affordable
housing, and public facilities, we see a more powerful state.
One pleasantly surprising aspect of Insurgencies is that, despite the nearly 40 years encompassed by
the various pieces in it, it holds together remarkably well. Its coherence comes from the author’s
normative commitment to the use of planning for social betterment, his consistent concern with the
relationship between process and outcomes, and his exhortation that theorizing be grounded in the
actual process of city building. Consequently, while his specific answers to the question “what do we
talk about when we talk about planning?” (p. 133) change, he remains true to the ideal that planning
as a profession “must constantly redefine itself and its mission” (p. 129).
The book is exciting reading for scholars and should prove an excellent text in planning theory
courses. It is less abstract than Friedmann’s longer books, and the contemporary prefaces to each
chapter are engaging. The volume also provides study questions after each reading, although I
personally tend to avoid adopting someone else’s approach to interrogating a reading, even when
suggested by
the author himself. Actually, most of the proffered questions are so long and complex, as to be
mini-essays in themselves and are more useful as critique than as pedagogy per se. For practitioners
the book provides an easily accessible approach to framing the larger issues raised by their work and
may cause them to discard their often- stated claim that theory is inapplicable to their real-life
Review Healey : Collaborative Planning
Achieved in the large capital cities, the metropolis. Despite the fact that the large cities are also
the cities that suffer from overloading and that smaller cities are frequently more 'live able', the
large cities continue to attract population because of the 'city effect'. The author argues for a
scientific approach to town planning which can achieve the city effect without having the
detrimental effect caused by congestion effects in large cities. Adopting the ecological approach
to the city system can help to define the optimal centrality in terms of city size and shape. The
Ecological City and the City Effect is therefore essentially about the approach to finding the ideal
city size.
The core idea of this book can be defined as 'a theory of the urban system as an ecological
equilibrium between demand for territory driven by human activities and supply of territory'(p.
166). Chapter 2 discusses the issue of overloading, introduced in Chapter1, by referring to
degradation of the urban environment in terms of pollution, traffic, congestion and social cohesion.
As a policy response, a scientific approach to town planning (identified by the term 'plan ology')
is advocated. This approach would be based on the concept of the city as an urban ecosystem. The
overloading is the product of a disequilibrium between the demand for territory and the supply of
territory. Essentially this is the concept of sustainable city planning as being based on the carrying
capacity principle.
Chapter 3 (which carries the subtitle 'a new strategy for the recovery of the urban environment')
introduces policy responses to restore or create the city effect. For the large metropolis that suffers
from overloading, a depolarization policy (p. 95) is suggested in order to reduce the pressure on
the historic city center in large cities. For the cities too small to achieve the city effect, a policy is
suggested of combining cities into city systems. Chapters4, 5 and 6 present a further development
of the idea that the city can be seen as an ecological system and this is illustrated with transport
(Chapter 5) and the labor market (Chapter6). The author's interpretation of the city as an ecological
system is developed in Chapter 7 by interpreting the city territory as a resource' supply' and as a
resource' demand'. This chapter presents the 'land use resources matrix' (LURM) as an instrument
of environmental planning. The LURM reflects the supply/demand approach by listing all land use
demands on the one hand, and all available land resources on the other. By the time the reader
reaches this point, there is a clear wish for some practical application of all this theory because
everything so far has been very theoretical . The last two chapters appear to promise this but fail
to do so. Chapter8 presents an Italian research project, and Chapter 9 a plan for the environment
by the Italian Government. As the author clearly states on p. 202, the ten-year plan for the
environment that was published in 1992,has not had practical implementation. It also remains
theory therefore. In our current era of sustainability, a planning theory based on the city as an
ecological system, particularly if found of practical relevance to planning policy, could be very
useful as a planning paradigm similar to the systems approach of the 1960s. Unfortunately, this
book does not deliver in this respect. Where the book is abundant in enthusiasm and theoretical
concept and ideas, it fails to provide the evidence that these theories would actually produce better
policies. The book is also difficult to read partly as a result of excessively long and difficult
sentences at times. More serious is the problem that the book lacks coherence. This is explained to
some extent when the reader discovers at the end that each chapter is based on a particular previous
publication by the author. It is somewhat of concern that some of the chapters originate from very
different years ranging from 1981 (Chapter 6) to 1995 (Chapter 1). The book ends abruptly and
the reader is left without a synopsis or even a conclusion. In summary, it must be said that The
Ecological City and the City Effect undoubtedly contains interesting and stimulating concepts but
fails to deliver on making these concepts meaningful in terms of a contribution to either the
literature or the practice of urban and regional planning.

Collaborative Planning: Shaping Places in Fragmented Societies,

This is not your common planning theory book, begging classification into the usual
categories of scholarship in our field. Without saying so explicitly, Healey's book
challengesFaludi's25-yearold distinction between 'theory of planning', and 'theory in planning'. The
theory of planning, which took root in the USA in the 1960s and later spread internationally, came
to be called 'planning theory'. Its proponents stressed its generic character, unlike the substantive
theories in planning which describe the operation of urban and regional systems and are derived
from many disciplines, including sociology, economics, ecology, and political science. But, as
Macrae and Alterman noted as far back as 1983, a group of British scholars led by Patsy Healey
were the first voices questioning the merit of detaching planning theory from substantive theories
about the operation of urban and regional systems. Although in recent years a few others have
noted the desirability of joining together the knowledge of spatial systems with generic planning
theory, until Healey's recent book, no other scholar has actually taken on this mammoth task. It is
not easy to weave together in the late 1990s several key fields of knowledge that have meantime
developed extensively and separately.
Collaborative Planning is a single-handed enterprise of presenting an all-compassing theory
of urban and regional('spatial' in continental English) planning that seeks to weave together into a
single, strong fabric, the most recent and Comprehensive knowledge about how spatial systems
(what Healey calls 'places') work, together with a thorough presentation of how public sector
planning ('governance') operates in practice. But Healey's goal in undertaking this ambitious work
is not only to summarize and integrate several otherwise almost estranged fields of knowledge.
Her motivation is to present a normative view of how planning institutions, processes and decision
can be reshaped and improved in order to be able to deal with today's 'fragmented societies'.
Within the fabric-weaving analogy, I have imagined the substantive theories of urban and
regional systems as the horizontal strands of thread, and the theories of planning and governance
as the vertical ones. Although Healey divides the book into Three rather than two parts, the book's
structure is true to this analogy.
The first part, titled 'Towards an institutionalist account and communicative theory of
planning’, is in fact an overview of the book's argument, presenting an exquisite weaving-together
of the two types of threads that the author goes on to elaborate in depth in the two subsequent parts.
Part I present’s a useful, in-depth, yet critical survey of the various traditions and views of planning
never brought together as Healey has done. She begins with the most integrated survey I have yet
encountered of the various traditions of planning thought- not only those to be found in generic
'planning theory’, which Healey calls 'policy analysis and planning’, but also in economic planning
and physical-development planning a special chapter is devoted to the latter).The author shows
how Beach one of these three planning traditions has evolved in a way that leads to, or calls for,
the development of the 'institutionalist analysis and communicative approaches'.
Part I continues with a chapter providing a refreshing new view of the modern and
postmodern approaches to planning that integrates works by philosophers and political
sociologists, with special attention to the contributions of Giddens and Habermas- two thinkers
who have influenced Healey most.
Based on these contributions, Healey proposes the 'institutional is approach 'for today's
fragmented societies, which argues that a way through the dilemmas of collaborating across
cultural differences is ... to build shared systems of meaning and ways of acting. Local
environmental planning thus becomes a project in the formation and transmission of cultural
layers,(p. 64)
In Part II Healey weaves the 'horizontal ‘strands of theory about urban and regional
systems. She presents not one, but three different disciplinary perspectives- sociology, economics,
and ecology. Such analysis cannot be found in any textbook in these fields because it seeks to
synthesize current knowledge about trends in urban and regional systems with the implications
each hold for planning theory. The survey begins with what the author refreshingly calls 'everyday
life'- the sociological and demographic perspectives. The diversity of lifestyle in a telecommuting
and mobile society, alongside the high degree of awareness among interest groups about the need
to participate in decisions, has reduced demographers ‘ability to categorize and quantify social
trends. Instead, the institutional approach, which focuses on the social dynamics of households
collaborating with Beach other in many overlapping circles, is gaining momentum.
I have found the second chapter on Economic especially illuminating. Noting cynically that
'patterns of land value are not an even surface, sloping outwards from a central peak' as some
regional economist shave argued(p. 158), Healey sheds fresh light on 'the relational webs which
interlink landowners, developers, investors, purchasers, leasers and renters in the development
process' (p. 149). The third chapter, ‘Living in the natural world', is an excellent survey of current
theories about the meaning of the environment and their important influence on planning thought
in recent years.
The gist of the messages of the three chapters about theories 'in planning ‘is that spatial
planning has developed the most effective way of bringing to bear in a one discourse, knowledge
about the economic, environmental and social dimensions, and is therefore the field most suited to
providing guidance to governance decisions about these issues. In today's fragmented societies,
planning holds the potential of gaining even more importance in coming years.
The third part of this book is, Healey develops her view of the new form of - collaborative
planning- as the Desir governance able alternative to current styles of planning and the wider
domain of governance.
Healey's view of collaborative planning is of a discourse held among a multitude of 'cultural
‘or 'political' communities. This planning conversation starts from divergent points and aims at
achieving a temporal, flexible understanding about the coexistence of all those different voices at
one place. Collaborative planning draws on communicative planning theory which emphasizes the
connection of knowledge to action n, of mutual learning and therefore of the importance of
communication in the planning process. This is the normative framework for the collaborative
conception of planning. Ealey merges this conception of planning with 'new - a social theory that
focuses on institutionalism' inter-personal relations and argues that social institutions, as a
formalization of these relations, shape our action and at the same time are shaped by them. The
contemporary arena for handling public affairs is an arena of plurality, fragmentation and diversity.
The challenge of public governance activities, and planning among them, is to create a public realm
for the inclusionary discourse of political, cultural communities.
Healey does not present a blueprint to collaborative planning- the reader would have been
exceedingly surprised had she done so. Instead, in her important concluding chapter, she provides
a set of parameters and criteria for the systematic institutional design of collaborative planning.
These include five attributes (I would have called them 'mandates'): recognize the range and variety
of stakeholders; acknowledge that much governance work occurs outside the formal agencies; open
up opportunities for informal initiatives ; foster inclusion of all diverse groups; and be continually
open and accountable. In addition, Healey suggests four parameters which political communities
should be encouraged to adopt: rights and duties, resources, competencies, and criteria for
'redeeming challenges'. The latter are of special interest in that they present a fresh challenge to
planning ethics.
Collaborative Planning is not a book based on several simple, linearly argued premises.
One cannot easily skim this book, but must rather delve into it in depth. If I may return to our
analogy, one can say that by tightly weaving the horizontal yarn of theories of urban systems along
with the vertical yarn of theories of planning as governance, the author has created a highly durable
fabric in the form of the normative theory of collaborative planning. This is the great strength of
this book. But this tight weaving has also created the one weakness. In seeking to make sure that
the two directions of yarn are woven tightly, the author at times repeats similar arguments in several
different contexts. But that does not diminish from the usefulness of each and every chapter.
Healey's book is a major, carefully argued contribution, which should raise the discourse
among planning theorists to a new level- a level reserved for a book that succeeds in the ambitious
task of weaving together, into one fabric, theories of planning and theories in planning. References