PLAN 802: Advanced Planning Theory





What is planning theory? And why is it important? These questions have captured and held the attention of planning scholars since planning theory gained hold as a distinct subfield in the 1970s and 80s. Initially conceived as a way of understanding how knowledge is translated into action (to quote from John Friedmann’s now canonical book, Planning in the Public Domain), planning theory sought to understand the contours and limitations of the so-called rational-comprehensive model. Then, in the 1980s and 1990s, a significant number of scholars took up questions of what planners actually do and how they communicate and deliberate with others. This focus on the ‘micro-politics’ of planning practice emerged in parallel to a new strand of scholarship on the more macro-level consequences of planning that raised questions about whose interests the planning profession actually serves and how planning relates to the political economy of urban and regional development. Scholars have since started to raise questions about what and who else is systematically excluded, with more attention now being paid to issues of gender, race and Indigeneity. None of these issues have been resolved.


So, while the evolution of planning theory includes distinct trends and areas of focus, a number of persistent questions remain. This course is structured around ten major ideas that have historically and/or continue to capture the attention of planning theorists, and each week we look at a different idea (or closely related set of ideas). Each week, we also examine the work of particular planning theorists, both those who helped planning theory grow into a distinct field of inquiry and those who helping push it new directions today.