Journal Article
Revisiting comparative planning cultures: is culture a reactionary rhetoric?

In The rhetoric of reaction: Perversity, futility, and jeopardy Albert Hirschman (1991Hirschman, A. O. (1991). The rhetoric of reaction: Perversity, futility, jeopardy. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. [Google Scholar]) traced six arguments which were commonly used by politically conservative policymakers to discredit progressive – redistributive – public policies. Hirschman’s analysis comes to mind as I write this brief essay to revisit my edited volume, Comparative planning cultures (Sanyal, 2005Sanyal, B. (2005). Comparative planning cultures. New York, NY: Routledge. [Google Scholar]), which drew on eleven national case studies to probe whether there are distinct planning cultures differentiating planning practices in these nations. Why so? Because in Comparative planning cultures (hereafter CPC) the very notion of culture as an inherently pure, essential and immutable social construct seemed untenable, as empirical evidence from across the world suggested the opposite: that planning cultures, defined as “the collective ethos and dominant attitudes of professional planners in different nations towards the appropriate role of the state, market, and civil society in urban, regional, and national development,” (2005Sanyal, B. (2005). Comparative planning cultures. New York, NY: Routledge. [Google Scholar], p. 3) evolved as a result of both exogenous and endogenous factors, and that the evolutionary process was not always unidirectional; sometimes changes in planning cultures were conservative, and yet at other times, progressive. CPC concluded that understanding why and how planning cultures change and how such changes impact public policies was more important to understand than to search for differences in planning cultures of nation-states as if they convey a totally different collective ethos shaped by the unique characteristics of each setting. This conclusion had raised the question of whether future research should focus on political factors, which explained changes in planning cultures, and why some changes led to progressive outcomes while others were regressive. In other words, CPC raised concerns about the conventional view of planning culture, which, I worried, lent itself to be misused by conservative thinkers to cultivate xenophobia and nationalism. What worries me is the growing rhetoric that particular “ways of social lives,” be they British or North American, are being threatened due to exogenous and endogenous factors. The threats of globalization loomed large in conventional views of culture, but beneath such rhetoric of reaction, as Hirschman argued, there were political forces which played out in multiple ways but were glossed over in the superficial celebration of cultures as the entity to be saved in the name of protecting social identity.

Title
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsSanyal B
JournalPlanning and Theory Practice
Pagination658-662
Date Published09/16
Abstract

In The rhetoric of reaction: Perversity, futility, and jeopardy Albert Hirschman (1991Hirschman, A. O. (1991). The rhetoric of reaction: Perversity, futility, jeopardy. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. [Google Scholar]) traced six arguments which were commonly used by politically conservative policymakers to discredit progressive – redistributive – public policies. Hirschman’s analysis comes to mind as I write this brief essay to revisit my edited volume, Comparative planning cultures (Sanyal, 2005Sanyal, B. (2005). Comparative planning cultures. New York, NY: Routledge. [Google Scholar]), which drew on eleven national case studies to probe whether there are distinct planning cultures differentiating planning practices in these nations. Why so? Because in Comparative planning cultures (hereafter CPC) the very notion of culture as an inherently pure, essential and immutable social construct seemed untenable, as empirical evidence from across the world suggested the opposite: that planning cultures, defined as “the collective ethos and dominant attitudes of professional planners in different nations towards the appropriate role of the state, market, and civil society in urban, regional, and national development,” (2005Sanyal, B. (2005). Comparative planning cultures. New York, NY: Routledge. [Google Scholar], p. 3) evolved as a result of both exogenous and endogenous factors, and that the evolutionary process was not always unidirectional; sometimes changes in planning cultures were conservative, and yet at other times, progressive. CPC concluded that understanding why and how planning cultures change and how such changes impact public policies was more important to understand than to search for differences in planning cultures of nation-states as if they convey a totally different collective ethos shaped by the unique characteristics of each setting. This conclusion had raised the question of whether future research should focus on political factors, which explained changes in planning cultures, and why some changes led to progressive outcomes while others were regressive. In other words, CPC raised concerns about the conventional view of planning culture, which, I worried, lent itself to be misused by conservative thinkers to cultivate xenophobia and nationalism. What worries me is the growing rhetoric that particular “ways of social lives,” be they British or North American, are being threatened due to exogenous and endogenous factors. The threats of globalization loomed large in conventional views of culture, but beneath such rhetoric of reaction, as Hirschman argued, there were political forces which played out in multiple ways but were glossed over in the superficial celebration of cultures as the entity to be saved in the name of protecting social identity.

URLhttp://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14649357.2016.1230363