chapter  6
54 Pages

Routines, Comparisons, and Future Directions

THE BOOK HAS FOCUSED ON THE ACTIONS of planning institutions to examine and articulate a plot dominated by public sector institutions acting more or less autonomously. This type of plot, derived from an institutional framework of analysis, allows one to acknowledge patterns of policy formulation and implementation (i.e. institutional action) that are often ignored. The case studies of successful housing recovery following the Mexico City and Los Angeles earthquakes, and of unsuccessful recovery from the crises of air pollution and riots, point to the significance of routines in planning institutions. A repertoire of routines-well-established and tried-and-tested institutional arrangements, policies, programs, and practices-is not only utilized for repetitive and uncomplicated situations. Routines are also the basis for an institutional approach to novel situations, including crises. For in the end, novelty is not a property of a situation so much as it is of our reaction to it; and the most standard institutional response to novelty is to find a set of routines that can be used. Problems do not have an intrinsic structure; they have a structure by reference to solutions that individuals and institutions can imagine, which is all the more reason to break problems up in ways congenial to our human understandings. Furthermore, by shaping a change to make it more consistent with existing procedures and practices, institutions maintain stability in the face of pressure to change. In this part of the conclusion, I discuss the role of routines more generally in institutional action, and also more specifically, in relation to the case studies, as sources of institutional legitimacy, specialization, and fit (or lack thereof).