1. Planning theory: conceptual challenges and planning evaluation
When the goal is to create and design places of dignity, this should be reflected both in planning processes and in the substantive content of plans. Is there a process-product gap in planning that makes comprehensive evaluation difficult? Or do planners have instruments to align physical changes with the values strived for in the participative and dialogical planning process? Planning theorists need to analyse whether it is possible to design processes with space for dialogue as well as agonism. Can a European dimension of planning be carved out from the borderland of the two concepts?
Neoliberalism shifts the border between public and private space. In doing so, it tends to expand consumer space and narrow citizen space. However, dignity is not found in consumerism, but in a society whose institutions do not humiliate or repress people. How can planning theory contribute? The austerity policies and the increased inequalities associated with neoliberalism also shift the border between spaces of dialogue and agonism. How does this affect the creation of places of dignity? Can planning theory help to counteract the idea of second-class citizens in the political turmoil of Europe of today?
Several central concepts in the planning disciplines are notoriously hard to define (such as the public interest). The notion of a particular European dimension of planning is likely to pose new conceptual challenges. Is there a planning theory of the Global South? If yes, how does it contrast with ideas of what is typically European? It is an aim to get the masses out of poverty. Is it also everywhere an aim to let the masses live in democracy? Is there a trade-off to be made between the two ends? Does neoliberalism make things worse on both accounts? Nearly everything written on neoliberalism in planning theory is on the negative side, even if neoliberal ideas have been embraced by social-democratic governments as well as right-wing regimes. Does this mean that planning theorists are producing ideology? Should they?
The challenges for planning theory are also associated with the competence for integrating alternative and activist planning approaches. How can the concepts of common good and spatial justice be applied for understanding geographical variations and the role of space and place in planning processes? How can comparative planning theory contribute for an understanding of the role of a state increasingly engaged with the extended reproduction of capital through ‘productive’ consumption?