Situating communicative planning theory: context, power, and knowledge
The purpose of this paper is to contribute to an emerging body of critique of communicative planning theory (CPT). The critiques in the paper are grounded in analysis of situated planning practice in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, where planners were 'feeling their way towards' democratising planning practice in line with the normative dimensions of CPT. Two critiques are offered. Both are fundamentally concerned with power and the tendency of CPT to operate as if the workings of power can be temporarily suspended through communicative planning practice to produce new consensual planning discourses. First, it is argued that CPT pays insufficient attention to the practical context of power in which planning is practised, thereby assuming away, rather than engaging with, the politics-laden and power-laden interests that infiltrate planning practice. Second, it is argued that CPT abstracts planners from their positioning in a nexus of power, knowledge, and rationality which validates expert forms of knowing/reasoning/valuing, and thus underestimates the challenges of asserting alternative forms. The paper concludes with a suggestion that any theory aiming at the democratisation of planning practice will need to depart from an orientation to consensus, a defining feature of CPT, and instead account for the irreducible nature of power and difference.