Privatization and the Rhetoric of Planning Practice

Dear, “Privatization and the Rhetoric of Planning Practice”, Society & Space, 7(4), 1989, 449-462.


In this paper the privatization of the planning profession is examined. The analysis proceeds with an exploration of how planners represent their profession through text and speech. Three kinds of rhetoric dominate discussion: a rhetoric of instrumentalism, which is concerned with reestablishing physical planning at the core of the discipline; a rhetoric of negotiation, which often loses sight of why negotiation was initiated in the first place; and a rhetoric of performance assessment, which is content with a planning which achieves its sponsors’ goals. None of these concentrations is intrinsically wrong, but their cumulative effect has been to permit a commodification of the functions of planning, which has subsequently facilitated the privatization process. Other elements of planning, not susceptible to commodification, have been dropped from the discourse. One such loss has been the rhetoric of reform, which has traditionally connected planning with its progressive roots and political action. Also absent is a rhetoric of theory, which would permit comparative analysis of the meanings of a postmodern planning.

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