Sunday, August 9, 2009

Responsibilities of theorists: The case of communicative planning theory

This paper analyses the responsibilities of planning theorists, with emphasis on issues pertaining to communicative planning theory (CPT). Four techniques of analysis are employed: discussion of examples of alleged misuse of CPT, comparison with strategies for analysing and preventing socially undesired effects of new technology (dual-use technology, technology assessment, engineering ethics), analysis of unintended use of theory following from creative reading and re-writing, and probing into concepts that are at the core of CPT (such as dialogue, inclusion, toleration and autonomy) by contrasting Habermas's ideas with those of Derrida and Levinas. The first half of the paper focuses on theorists' responsibility for end-uses of theories they produce. Recent criticism of CPT suggests that it may sometimes serve authorities in repressive ways (as can other planning theories), and thus not always fulfil communicative planning theorists' aim of empowering the citizenry. This is the background for introducing the concept of 'dual planning theory', which is compared to the dichotomy of light/dark sides of planning. What should planning theorists do to protect against misuse of their ideas? Responsibility for consequences depends on theorists' possibilities of predicting and affecting end-uses, and difficulties such as unintended effects are discussed. The analogy with participatory technology assessment clarifies the problems of monitoring theory construction in liberal democracies.

The second half of the paper analyses three issues: communicative planning theorists' responsibility for inclusive dialogue, the possibilities of making responsible decisions in accordance with theories of planning, and theorists' responsibilities as teachers and university academics. The uncompromising inclusion and hospitality advocated by Levinas and Derrida is a challenge to liberal democracy. The hope of reconciling Levinas's belief in responsibility for the Other with practical applications of CPT lies in his admission of the need for making compromises in the political realm. There, the planner has responsibilities towards several people and therefore cannot give unlimited attention to a single Other. The question of what is meant by responsible planning decisions is studied by employing Derrida's concept of undecidability. Planning theories offer rules and guidelines for how to design processes, for instance, but Derridean responsibility requires that planners in addition employ their inventive reflection and intuition to make decisions. Finally, planning theorists' obligations as educators and academics are discussed in light of Derrida's ideas of responsibility and the university.

Author Affiliation:

Department of Civil and Transport Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway

Source Citation:Sager, Tore. "Responsibilities of theorists: The case of communicative planning theory." Progress in Planning 72.1 (July 2009): 1(51). Academic OneFile. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 9 Aug. 2009

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