congresos y reuniones científicas
The ambivalent character of spatial planning systems: a differentiated state account
Conferencia; Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning 2020 Annual Conference; 2020
Institución organizadora:
Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning
Discourses play a key role in determining the form of the state and in promoting state action. Until recently, planning discourses have generally portrayed spatial planning systems as vehicles to attain legally-established, generic policy objectives such as institutional integration, territorial balance, and modernization. This conventional perspective emerges from an understanding of spatial planning systems as fixed, hierarchical and structured policy levels and institutions facilitated by administrative, technical and juridical tools and processes (Newman and Thornley, 1996; Knapp, Nedović-Budić and Carbonell, 2015). Emphasizing their technical operation and instrumental analyses, this formalistic interpretation of spatial planning systems neither accounts for historical structural inequalities nor it considers the socio-political specificities and meaning that result from the "dialectical interplay between agency and institutions" (Servillo and van den Broeck 2012). The starting point of the paper is the premise that this orthodox view of spatial planning systems relies on an overly broad assumption of the state conceived as "neutral". Moving beyond this impartial imagination, the paper heeds to a "differentiated" perspective that depicts the state as a set of arenas lacking coherence, where contexts determine particular trajectories of state actions as well as the power relations that exert influence on them. From a post-structuralist perspective, the state is a "differentiated set of institutions, agencies and discourses" conceived as built historically through political (relational) processes whose outcomes remain open (Kantola, 2006). Placing emphasis on state practices and discourses, a differentiated account unfolds from the premise that states are formed on the basis of opportunities for action "between and through" the states' contextual institutions and relations. The differentiated state is thereby attuned with Jessop's (2008) strategic relational approach insofar as both critically scrutinize theformalistic character of state institutions while advocating the need to develop alternative understandings of how states are ultimately conformed. Based on these critical state approaches, the paper sets out to explore how planning discourses contribute to shape the form of spatial planning systems. The paper uses two "extreme" Latin American contexts to demonstrate how planning discourses have a constitutive function insofar as they mobilize government agendas and reinforce or modify the form of the state in accordance with selective intervention strategies, e.g. by introducing new administrative levels or suppressing others, creating new jurisdictions or merging others, and/or expanding or reducing the scope of instruments. The paper further shows how state spatial strategies conceal inherent state strategic selectivities for socio-economic intervention and how their outcomes oftentimes diverge from the actual policy agendas they were allegedly set to pursue. The paper concludes that far from perceiving spatial planning systems as formal and one-sided (vertical, ordered, linear), planning research should turn more attention towards acknowledging and examining their strategic side (immanently horizontal and multidirectional), which results from the inherently dialectical and discursive relationship that ultimately binds two sides of state action.