Town Planning Review

Participation and planning: Dichotomies, rationalities and strategies for power

Town Planning Review (2007), 78, (4), 401–428.

Abstract

In the context of current attempts to increase public participation and promote participatory democracy within planning and a range of other state activities, this article focuses on the micro-politics of a particular example of participation in planning. It seeks to move beyond the potential dichotomy in theoretical debates between a view of participation as an essentially emancipatory practice within a communicative/ collaborative framework and an alternative interpretation of participation as a 'new tyranny'. Building on theoretical perspectives that have attempted to bridge this divide by focusing on the dynamic tensions between competing rationalities, the article explores a case study of participation on the Cowley Road in Oxford. It also considers whether it is possible to incorporate 'strategies for power' within participation exercises as a way of maximising any emancipatory potential. It concludes by arguing that an understanding of participation based on exploring the tensions between different rationalities can inform both the analysis and practice of participation exercises, but that 'strategies for power' are more problematic and have to be seen in the context that power cannot be contained and planned around.

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Author details

Brownill, Sue

Carpenter, Juliet