chapter  3
31 Pages

Participation, Urban Planning, and Urban Studies

Four Decades of Debates and Experiments Since S. R. Arnstein’s “A Ladder of Citizen Participation”
ByMarie-Hélène Bacqué, Mario Gauthier

More than four decades after the publication of S. R. Arnstein’s seminal paper, “A Ladder of Citizen Participation,” the authors offer a critical review of research pertaining to public participation in urban planning and urban studies in North American and European contexts. After delineating the fields of urban planning and urban studies, they recount how participation has emerged in this field of practice in opposition to the rational comprehensive planning model. A particular interest is brought to collaborative approaches in urban planning and urban studies, strongly inspired by the communicative and deliberative trends, and to the debates that have accompanied their diffusion. The authors then review some concrete participatory practices and the analyses of them in order to draw up a portrait of current research and the questions it raises. The authors conclude by discussing the thesis of the emergence of a post-collaborative era in research and debates on participation, which tend to transcend the conventional opposition between “idealistic” and “ultra-critical” perspectives. They propose instead to adopt a “pragmatic” and “empirical” perspective for analyzing and comparing the participatory processes and mechanisms in urban planning.