2001 volume 33(4) pages 629 – 647

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Sager T, 2001, "Positive theory of planning: the social choice approach" Environment and Planning A 33(4) 629 – 647

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Positive theory of planning: the social choice approach

Tore Sager

Received 9 February 2000; in revised form 24 January 2001

Abstract. Most planning theory is normative and does not aim at explaining the design of planning processes. However, once the relationships between organisational characteristics and the various modes of planning are established, these connections can be used for developing positive planning theory. The problem is to explain why an agency practises a particular mode of planning (synoptic, incremental, etc), or even why it performs a specific variant of such a mode. It is argued that the impossibility theorems of social choice provide a useful platform for attacking such problems. In order to explain the practice of planning agencies, a scheme for linking agency properties and planning modes is combined with alternative strategies for resolving dilemmas of agency decisionmaking. A brief survey of other theoretical approaches to the construction of positive planning theory opens the discussion and places the social choice analysis in a theoretical context.

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