Planning - Dark Side of Planning

Dark Side of Planning

The "dark side of planning" is a term used by planning scholars to distinguish actual planning from ideal planning. The term was coined by Oxford professor Bent Flyvbjerg (1996: 383) based on research of how political power influences rationality in planning (Flyvbjerg 1991, 1998). Flyvbjerg defined the dark side of planning as the real rationalities that planners employ in planning practice, as opposed to the ideal rationalities of the benevolent planners that often inhabit planning textbooks. Yiftachel (1995) similarly talked about a "dark side of modernism" in his studies of how planning is used for control and oppression of minorities. Taken together, and independently of each other, these works introduced the "dark side" as a concept and an empirical phenomenon in planning theory and planning research. Later works have further developed the concept in efforts to better understand what actual planners do when they plan (Allmendinger and Gunder 2005; Flyvbjerg and Richardson 2002; Gunder 2003; Pl√łger 2001; Roy 2008; Tang 2000; Yiftachel 1998, 2006).

Flyvbjerg's definition of the dark side of planning draws and expands upon Ludwig von Rochau's distinction between politics and Realpolitik (real, practical politics), made famous by Otto von Bismarck and signaling the advent of modern political science. Flyvbjerg (1996) argues that distinguishing between rationality and real rationality is as important for the understanding of planning as distinguishing between politics and Realpolitik is for the understanding of politics. The real rationalities of planners are called "dark" because it turns out that what planners do in actual practice often does not stand the light of day, i.e., actual planning practice often violates generally accepted norms of democracy, efficiency, and equity and thus of planning ethics.

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