ABSTRACT

In our contemporary Western democracies, politics is played out as much in the finegrain of public policymaking and its translations into policy practices as it is in the grander dramas of national political debates and electoral campaigns. In my own field of urban and regional planning – collective efforts to shape place qualities and connectivities – this is strikingly evident (Healey 2010, Corburn 2010, Owens and Cowell 2011). Such qualities and connectivities are an important dimension of life experience and opportunity for citizens and businesses. Yet qualities which are judged valuable now and in the future are not readily promoted either by the ‘self-regulation’ of market processes, or by the functional divisions of public policy institutions fostered by mid-twentieth-century welfare states. In the highly-urbanised situations and globalised cultural and economic referents which influence how people think and act these days, all kinds of concerns bump up against each other – those of residents with diverse lifestyles, businesses of various sizes and spatial reach, service delivery agencies, those of groups promoting heritage, and acting as spokespeople for all kinds of environmental dimensions. As Massey (2005) remarks, they are ‘thrown together’ in shared spaces. Any substantial proposal for change is likely to generate all kinds of tensions and conflicts, bringing to the surface knowledge and values in a plurality of claims and voices. The institutional sites provided by the arenas of formal planning systems have often become key arenas where these conflicts play out (Owens and Cowell 2011).