Posts Tagged Brooks
Planning and Politics
by: Yudo Anggoro, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Power and Politics are two important terms in public planning. Brooks (2002) clearly underlines the importance of power and politics in planning by stating that politics is an integral part of the planning process. Planning is inseparable from politics because it is dealing with public interests, and also dealing with various interest groups who have different values, goals, and motives. Therefore, planners need to apply several strategies to work effectively in this political environment. Planners need to be politically aware in doing their responsibilities, and need to be able to “read” the political and power structure in the society. In Brooks’ argument, this set of skills is often called as political savvy, in which planners need to be able to assess the possibilities and constraints of a particular situation, have outstanding communication skills, and possess a compelling vision of what the community would be like in the future.
Hoch (1994) introduces the perspective shift of planners from rational model to the rational protocol to accommodate the growing role of power and politics in planning area. Hoch argues that this rational protocol helps planners to bridge the gap between politics and vision through their individual acts of expertise. A rational protocol presents a set of rules or procedures guiding how people with social standing, position, authority, or power are to act toward others in different institutional settings. Hoch argues that in doing their daily jobs; planners cannot rely solely on their technical expertise. In the reality, professional skills get tamed and shaped by the purposes and power of those with more authority. Therefore, it is imperative to teach rational protocol in the planning education, even though some of us may have belief that in order to understand the power and politics of society, we need to have the first-hand experience in the real situation. Some people also may argue that rational protocol is something that we may accumulate as we get more experiences in our daily life, not something we instantly gather from the school.
Molotch (1976) clearly illustrates the condition where elites who hold the power and resources may control the city and urban areas to maximize their own interests. These elites may refer to the growth machine of the city. These growth machines may mobilize their resources to influence policy makers of the city to gain economic advantage for themselves. For example, they may influence the decision of policy makers in zoning law, land use planning, or city investment. This growth machine can consist of big corporations, lobbyists, media, or developers. In the case of city of Charlotte, perhaps we can see this pattern of the growth machine in the big corporations, such as Bank of America or Duke Energy.
Sanyal (2005) criticizes the role of power in planning by saying that planning had become too centralized, bureaucratic, elitist, and non-participatory. In his article, he proposes his idea on how to enhance the effectiveness of public sector planning, especially in providing housing and employment in urban poor area in new-industrialized nations. Sanyal (2005) argues that planning from the top (from the authoritative body) should be balanced by planning from the bottom, which is often referred as the “new social movement” initiated by NGOs and community-based groups.
To summarize this note, planners need to combine both rational model and rational protocol introduced by Hoch (1994). In Sanyal (2005) term, planning from the top authority should be balanced by planning from the bottom, initiated by community-based groups. Planners definitely need knowledge and expertise to make a better judgment in their daily jobs, but they also need to incorporate their expertises with power and understanding the political circumstances to make a better society.
Brooks, M. (2002). Planning Theory for Practitioners. Planners Press: Chicago, IL.
Hoch, C. (1994). What Planners Do: Power, Politics, and Persuasion. Planners Press: Chicago, IL.
Molotch, H. (1976). The City as a Growth Machine. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 82(2): 309-332.
Sanyal, B. (2005). Planning as Anticipation of Resistance. Planning Theory, Vol. 4(3): 225-245.