Wonderful reads, 2020: Patsy Healey on Judy Innes

I have been struggling in 2020 with keeping up this blog, and one thing I wanted to get to was really discussing Judy Innes’ legacy. I tended to be a bit on deliberative planning theory, as I fall more into the grumpy Neo-Marxist camp than in the “let’s talk things through” camp. But Judy Innes exerted an important influence on planning theory, and her contributions deserve to be recognized.

Fortunately, Patsy Healey, one of my favorite theory writers, didn’t share my inability to get some good, constructive thoughts together, and she put together this lovely retrospective for Planning Theory & Practice, which is available to all without paywall. My favorite comment is a rebuke to my own grump tendencies:

Judy’s 1995 paper generated intense debate among the ‘planning theory’ community, as it competed for attention with those developing an alternative challenge to the positivist hegemony, based in a development of neo-Marxist political economy. This was evolving strongly in Europe at the time and was represented in the US by scholars such as Susan Fainstein and Micky Lauria. The result was a critique which argued that the communicative planning theorists failed to recognise the dominant capitalist forces structuring policy-making and planning practices. Judy’s search for improved decision-making within the current structure was merely fixing a system which generated gross injustices and needed to be fundamentally changed. Any search for ‘consensus’ among stakeholders masked major divisions within social formations. At one level, this debate was implicitly about whether to accept or reject the core axioms of liberal democracy. Judy herself never lost her commitment to the founding principles of American democracy. But it was also about how power is distributed in social formations and about how change in governing practices comes about.

It’s a perpetual tension that Healey doesn’t resolve, either. Making the incremental best of a crummy situation is quite often better, however marginal, than the notion that the revolution is forthcoming if we only pound the table hard enough for it. (Or, that those we assume the revolution would benefit actually share that belief or want a revolution.)