Town Planning Review 91.6 Featured Article

The editors of Town Planning Review (TPR) have selected the following paper as the Featured Article in TPR 91.6.

The paper will be free to access for a limited time:

‘The Role of Planning and the Role of Planners: political dimensions, ethical principles, communicative interaction’ by Stefano Moroni.

When asked to describe the paper and highlight its importance, the author stated the following:

In the planning debate there is a certain confusion concerning some matters due to the fact that the role of planning (as an institutional activity) and the role of planners (as professionals) are not always clearly distinguished from each other. The discussion and reasoning in this field quite often slip and slide imperceptibly and inadvertently from one aspect to the other. The purpose of this article is therefore to clearly identify the role – function, duties, etc. – that planning (as an institutional technology) rather than planners (as experts) may have. As much as this demarcation may seem trivial at first sight, it enables us to appreciate and discuss various issues at the centre of the contemporary debate more clearly. Three of particular importance have been chosen here concerning: (i) the political dimension; (ii) ethical obligations; (iii) communicative processes. These issues seem particularly suited to illustrating the differences under consideration.

Obviously, the article does not wish to suggest that there are no ties between questions related to the role of planning and those related to the role of planners. At this point of the debate, it seems however more interesting to underline the differences.

In short, in this article an attempt has been made to underline the importance and usefulness of making a clearer distinction between the role of planning and the role of planners. An attempt has also been made to show how maintaining this distinction in some widely debated subjects makes a clearer and more critical discussion possible. Note how all this makes it also clear how in academic literature it is possible to have historic reconstructions centred more on the role of planning and reconstructions centred more on the role of planners.

Note also how in the light of the above two different problems arise: (i) evaluation of the usefulness and desirability of planning as institutional technology (i.e. arguments for and against planning); here the issue is “Why do we need (public) planning?”; and (ii) evaluation of the usefulness and desirability of a particular profession and a particular type of expertise, that of planners; here the issue is “Why do we need planners?”

In conclusion, it is important to note that planning theory – e.g. normative planning theory – may deal only (or, at least mainly) with planning as a public institutional activity, or only (or, at least mainly) with planners as practitioners and professionals.  Obviously, it may also deal with both aspects at the same time. What is important, in any case, is not to confuse and mix the different levels of the discussion.