Planners and Love from this edition of Planning Theory and Practice

This is free for the taking from Taylor and Francis Online: What’s Love Got to Do With It: Loving Attachment in Planning from a roundtable in 2009 sponsored by the Planners of Color Interest Group. It’s got a great line-up of writers including–and I’m going to sound ageist as all hell here–older and younger planning scholars. I say this with a reason, despite my desire to be both inclusive and respectful of the many wonderful scholars who are older and making great contributions. In addition to being very white, the planning academy is dominated by baby boomer full professors who seldom invite anybody but their buddies onto round-tables with them; there is a great deal of sameness in that kind of set-up.

The organizers of this roundtable didn’t make that mistake here. We have some of the field’s established scholars (Leonie Sandercock and Robert Lake, who are always worth reading) and some junior stars (Aftab Erfan, Michelle Kondo, Marisa Zapata, Lisa Bates, and Andrew Zitcer). The result is very readable mix of theory writing and riffs on personal reflections that should get you thinking.

Zitcer and Lake take up some thinking that we just explored in my justice class, on agape and eros. Our exploration was slightly different: we were using Anders Nygren’s construction of eros and agape; Zitcer and Lake examine philia while we (naturally) took up nomos–justice. I love (har! see what I did there? I slay me) Nygren’s definition of agape: “gratuitous benevolence.” Gratuitous benevolence. What would a world governed by gratuitous benevolence look like?

Love and care ethics have been around for a bit, and it’s refreshing to see planners articulating their own understanding of it.

New book! Building Inclusive Cities: Women’s Safety and the Right to the City

I haven’t read it yet–I just got the announcement–but this book looks just terrific. It’s available from Routledge. From the publisher’s release:

Building Inclusive Cities Women’s Safety and the Right to the City

Edited by Carolyn Whitzman, University of Melbourne, Australia, Crystal Legacy, University of New South Wales, Australia, Caroline Andrew, University of Ottawa, Canada, Fran Klodawsky, Carleton University, Canada, Margaret Shaw, Independent Consultant, Canada and Kalpana Viswanath, Women in Cities International, India

Building on a growing movement within developing countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia-Pacific, as well as in Europe and North America, this book documents cutting edge practice and builds theory around a rights based approach to women’s safety in the context of poverty reduction and social inclusion. Drawing upon two decades of research and grassroots action on safer cities for women and everyone, this book is about the right to an inclusive city. The first part of the book describes the challenges that women face regarding access to essential services, housing security, liveability and mobility. The second part of the book critically examines programs, projects and ideas that are working to make cities safer. Building Inclusive Cities takes a cross-cultural learning perspective from action research occurring throughout the world and translates this research into theoretical conceptualizations to inform the literature on planning and urban management in both developing and developed countries. This book is intended to inspire both thought and action.


Hayek being flat out wrong, on tape and in public

So one of the annoying things about the Hayek revival we are having is that people are talking about his ideas, without actually reading his work, and thus are making him into a plaster saint, which means we have to put up with a whole boatload of screaming nonsense about what Hayek meant. Urk. So like Jesus, apparently, Hayek spoke in parables.


Hayek was a scholar, and he was a theorist, but he also valued empiricism. Here he is with James Buchanan being, simply, wrong.

Because of his training and his scholarly vocabulary, he’s not reflecting on what he is saying about political or social theory here. He argues that because people don’t know what social justice is, it’s a nothing concept incapable of being enacted and we should just get rid of it.

Well, that’s nonsense. Hayek’s own body of work is based on a straight up concept from political theory central to many theories of the just society: liberty. He might not be able to frame–or even recognize–his arguments as emanating from a position on justice. But it doesn’t make his work any less relevant to those who frame justice in terms of liberty, or him any less wrong in acting as though he’s stating a empirical reality about what “social justice means’ when, in fact, he himself has taken an explicit position on what justice is and how just societies treat individuals.

It’s also pretty clear that Buchanan and Hayek, brilliant though they are, have not read Rawls particularly effectively.

Here, by contrast, is Hayek being brilliant, again with James Buchanan, on looking for patterns in the macroeconomy.

Marcuse on the Right to the City

City journal this time out has a collection of papers about and from Peter Marcuse and critical urban theory. The entire edition is worth reading, but in particular it’s worth reading Marcuse’s own contribution:

Marcuse, P. (2009). From critical urban theory to the right to the city. City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action, 13, 2(3), 185-197.

It’s worth reading largely because–and I say this with great respect for Professor Marcuse–he’s so misguided in how he describes our contemporary crisis and in how he describes a right. I really wish we in urban and planning theory could get to a point–particularly in critical theory– where our theories concern more nuanced views of power and influence than what happens in this article: i.e., “I blame whatever political or social ideas I personally find distasteful on the Right.”

In political philosophy, Mary Ann Glendon started a firestorm, rightly, when she published Rights Talk: the Impoverishment of Political Discourse. Her point, and it’s a good one, is that American politics had devolved away from fruitful deliberation about the nature of the collective good towards arguments about individual rights over and over again. She’s got a very good point: I routinely hear students refer to their “rights” and even Burger King had a campaign the “Right to Have it Your Way.” Ill-defined rights are all over the place everywhere, virtually all the time, largely because they do have the sense of being Dworkin’s “trump card” in political discussion. Rights are tempting to use because they carry the air of being entitled to an outcome we want out of a (probably distributive) conflict and shutting the cakeholes of those who would deny us what we want. They can be assigned to me as a person (yay) or to whatever group I like—whether it’s property holders (who have a strong legal tradition on their sides) or people with disabilities (who recently have had gains in establishing legal civil rights).

Planners hear a lot of Rights Talk. If somebody has a “right to have a park nearby,” somebody else has a “right to keep Person X out of that park” because they “have a right to keep their kids safe.” Rights claims are in contestation because they concern both the fundamental entitlements of society, but also because they have secondary distributive consequences—particularly in collective good provision in urban life.

Thus for many who would have our cities be socially just in terms of distribution, Henri Lefebvre’s writing about the city has become, as Marcuse notes, a slogan various urban movements. One recent high-profile movement is an anti-gentrification group.

For me, I have never found Lefebvre’s “right to the city” to be a clear concept in his own writing except for his point that the city itself–if a good city–is defined by social inclusion, and in that sense the city does become a metaphor for society. But because cities themselves are geographic and social systems, the right is one of engagement within those to whatever degree is necessary to give legitimate opportunity for engagement and voice in outcomes for the collective space that is the city. These include both the distributive outcomes that usually take front-and-center–for inclusion means the ability to partake of collectively provided services–and in the deliberation.

This means the opposite of “we don’t like certain people and certain ideas” or “those viewpoints or ideas we find distasteful should be eliminated or contained” Instead, these are part of the mix of collective urban furtures; these ideas may or may not govern the allocation of urban services, but they are not used as a rationale for exclusion either.

Work that informed this post:

Dworkin, Ronald. 1978. Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Glendon, Mary Ann. 1991. Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse. The Free Press.

Harvey, David. 2008. The Right to the City. New Left Review. 53.