(University Press of America Inc.)
(From the book jacket)
“When planning in the U.S.A. shifted from a design activity to a technocratic process after World War II, it sought a scientific basis for its new professional approach.
The academic climate in the United States at that time would permit no other concept of social science than that inspired by positivism, along with the ontological and epistemological presuppositions that it carried with it from the natural sciences.
Subsequent developments, both inside and outside academia, have raised doubts about how sufficient positivism is for comprehending society in all its complexity, especially to the extend that it differs from nature in important respects.
This is not to say that positive social sciences should be abandoned in any sense of the word, but rather that there are important additional dimensions of society that cannot be understood from such a perspective.
Thus, borrowing a term from Thomas Kuhn, an attempt is made here to explore the limitations and potential of not only positivism, but also of two other ‘paradigms,’ phenomenology and structuralism, in the hopes that a more comprehensive social scientific basis for planning could be articulated.
Thus, planning as a scientific activity faces a double challenge. First, it must understand its social reality (as differentiated from the reality of nature).
Second, it must understand its own role in constituting that socially constructed reality, which is also its object of study. This is not an easy challenge, and it carries planning well beyond its traditionally defined role, both as an academic as well as a professional activity.
These boundaries were transgressed briefly in the 1960s, so there is a glimpse of what could be done. But planning would have to sharpen its understanding, not only of the society into which it is intervening, but also of its own rhetorical resources for intervening in socially and politically responsible ways.”
Gutenschwager is professor emeritus in the School of Architecture and a research fellow in the Department of Regional Planning and Development at the University of Thessaly, Volos, Greece. He earned a doctorate in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina in 1969.