2004 volume 22(3) pages 423 – 451

Cite as:
Basu R, 2004, "A Flyvbjergian perspective on public elementary school closures in Toronto: a question of 'rationality' or 'power'?" Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 22(3) 423 – 451

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A Flyvbjergian perspective on public elementary school closures in Toronto: a question of 'rationality' or 'power'?

Ranu Basu

Received 21 May 2003; in revised form 26 September 2003

Abstract. The notion of social capital in contemporary societies is viewed as being necessary for the rejuvenation of civil society. However, such assumptions are based on inclusionary democratic practices; the heterogeneity of societal needs and the underlying power structures are often not taken into account. The author explores the possibility of examining neighbourhood-based social capital along the lines of 'intrinsic' (within neighbourhood) and 'extrinsic' (neighbourhood - city) relations. A spatial comparison of such preexisting, dense, dynamic networks of everyday mundane activities often leads to a better understanding of how power is created, maintained, and eventually used in times of neighbourhood crises. More specifically, by using a Flyvbjergian perspective of rationality and power, the author combines the notion of social capital as proposed by Putnam with Epstein's framework of participation within schools, to identify variations in civic activities within Public Elementary School Districts in Toronto (TDSB). Drawing from a unique descriptive dataset on parental and community participation available from the TDSB, and by combining it with enumeration-area data aggregated at the school-district level, this framework is empirically tested to gain an understanding of how such links relate to school-closure decisions. Within the context of education reform in Ontario, the results reveal the paradoxical nature of social capital in promoting and subjugating notions of democracy and civil society.

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