chapter  3
20 Pages

Discursive planning: Social justice as discourse

ByFrank Fischer

Over the past decade there has been something of an acrimonious debate in urban planning theory between those who have advanced a communicative action or argumentative approach and those who have sought to reaffirm a more traditional political-economic orientation which has, among other things, emphasized social justice. In large part, those who support the traditional political-economic approach appear to worry that they have lost ground to a newer democratic-deliberative orientation based on the work of planners influenced by the epistemological contributions of Habermas. Some have even expressed concern that the communicative approach is becoming, if it has not already become, the dominant paradigm in planning theory. For them, the communications approach leaves out other more traditional questions, in particular concerns about social justice. The purpose of this chapter is to enter this debate-at times unfriendly and unproductive-to show that these two orientations are often closer to one another than first appears to be the case. Indeed, both social justice and a discursively oriented communicative approach, it is argued, are at important points necessarily dependent on one another. Seeking to circumvent this theoretical standoff, the discussion illustrates how the work of the discursive planner and the political-economist can be brought together in a more encompassing normative framework based on practical discourse. Toward this end, we begin with a brief outline of the communicative action approach, then turn to what their critics have to say about it.