1998 volume 30(11) pages 1975 – 1989

Cite as:
Tewdwr-Jones M, Allmendinger P, 1998, "Deconstructing communicative rationality: a critique of Habermasian collaborative planning" Environment and Planning A 30(11) 1975 – 1989

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Deconstructing communicative rationality: a critique of Habermasian collaborative planning

M Tewdwr-Jones, P Allmendinger

Received 23 May 1997; in revised form 10 July 1997

Abstract. What has becomes known in recent years as communicative or collaborative planning has forged a new hegemony in planning theory. Described by some as the paradigm of the 1990s, it proposes a fundamental challenge to the practice of planning that seeks both to explain where planning has gone wrong and (more controversially) to identify ways forward. The broad approach itself and advocates of it have lacked the advantage of any critique. This paper provides such an opportunity. Following a brief outline of communicative action, we identify three broad areas of concern that militate against the option of a collaborative planning approach. More specifically, we identify problematic assumptions in Habermas's original theoretical distinction of communicative action as a fourth separate concept of sociological action. Although we accept its useful dissection of planning and the role of values and consensus-building in decision-settings, we consider that collaborative planning theory fails to incorporate adequately the peculiar political and professional nuances that exist in planning practice. We conclude our critique by raising programmatic points for planning theory and practice in general.

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