Communicative Urban Planning, Emancipatory Politics, and Postmodernism

Louis Albrechts & William Denayer. Handbook of Urban Studies. Editor: Ronan Paddison. SAGE Publications. 2001.

The Changing Position of Planners

In the 1960s, planners believed in a future in which social problems could be tamed and humanity could be liberated from the constraints of scarcity and greed (see Albrechts, 1991). Planning was thought to be an adequate tool of the welfare states to ameliorate and to equalize the conditions of living. In the 1990s, however, an entirely new situation is faced. The state has become much more ideologically conservative and more subservient to the needs and demands of capital, turning away from the simultaneous pursuit of both economic growth and welfare (Beauregard, 1989). Moreover, everywhere in Europe the proponents of the welfare-state project seem to be ideologically in crisis, theoretically confused and internally divided.

Although in this chapter the focus is not on explaining the general causes leading to this situation, it has now become clear that the 1980s witnessed a general process of industrial restructuring throughout the world (Albrechts and Swyngedouw, 1989; Priore and Sabel, 1984; see also Amin, 1994). There are several versions explaining this round of restructuring. A dominant interpretation, however, is that the Fordist mode of development based on an international spatial division of labour in the industrial realm and on regulatory state intervention resulting in the building of the welfare state, has been superseded by a new, more geographically open and market-based mode of production founded on a growing and all-encompassing flexibility (see Albrechts and Swyngedouw, 1989). By the end of the 1960s, the organization and technical limitations of the Fordist mode of production, the countervailing practices of institutionalized regulation, and the inherent tendencies of a fall in the rate of profit and overaccumulation, threatened the existence of this mode of production. This restructuring radically changed the roles planning and planners could play in society.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, mainstream planning was basically aimed at smoothing the negative implications of uncontrolled economic development and is concerned with optimizing the environmental conditions for ever-widening economic expansion. Following this route, the scope of planning not only became severely limited but also led towards an inherently contradictory position of planners towards their own practice (Albrechts, 1991). The question to be asked was no longer how to minimize the socially negative consequences of economic development through redistributive policies, but how to maximize opportunities. Many planners became obedient to the ‘imperative’ of providing a good business climate and the ‘construction’ of all sorts of incentives to attract inward investment. As Fainstein pointed out, planners became more deal-makers rather than regulators (Fainstein, 1988, see also Harvey, 1982, 1989, on the rise of urban entrepreneurialism). Economic development, certainly, can be considered the most highly valued political aim of the 1980s and 1990s. The competition for investments, however, led to a divorce between development policies and democratic politics. Public-private partnerships, for example, were ideologically conceived as politically neutral decisions, leaving the deliberations and the politics inherent in it in the hand of ‘experts’ (see Fainstein, 1988; Harvey, 1989). More than ever before, decisions were made in private, with no eye to the common interest at all. Welfare corporate society depoliticizes public life by restricting discussion to distributive issues in a context of interest-group pluralism where each group competes for its share of public resources. The government authority is carved out in favour of institutionalized interest groups and private entrepreneurs (see also Young, 1990: 71ff; Denayer, 2000). The problem with this is that it institutionalizes and encourages an egoist, self-regarding view of the political. Interest-group pluralism, indeed, allows little space for claims that parties have a responsibility to attend to the claims of others because they are needy or oppressed (see Young, 1990). As an answer, it is argued that planning has to be normative in purpose, pro-active and political in attitude, also towards traditionally unchallenged power structures (Albrechts, 1993, 1996, 1999).

Changes in Society Affecting Planning

All of this has to be placed within the more general framework of a changing view of how society should be organized. Under the spell of neo-liberalism, planning became increasingly associated with inefficiency, regulation and excessive cost, hindering individual freedom and the functioning of the free market economy. Neo-liberals and conservatives assume that the economic factors spontaneously develop towards an optimal state of affairs or, if this would prove to be only partially true, that only very limited state intervention is desirable. In this conception planning is considered to be largely superfluous. Moreover, many planners radicalized the view that planning was politically neutral. Planning became, still more than this had already been the case in the 1960s, more concerned with how to plan rather than with the outcomes of planning. Put otherwise, procedural rationality and formal efficiency gained in respect to the disadvantage of substantive and normative rationality, which deals with questions as to what planning is all about, who profits from it, what kind of society planners really help to plan and where the societal responsibilities of planners lie. As a consequence of this proceduralist approach, planning came more than ever under the spell of technical and positivistic reasoning (Harvey, 1982; Swynge-douw, 1987).

As during the high tide of Fordism, many people were able to ameliorate their position of living; now an ‘underclass’ (Gans, 1991) is emerging. The members of this heterogenic ‘class’ have in common that they do not have the opportunities, the financial means, the proper education or the organizational capacities needed to conquer for themselves a place in society. Nor does there seem to exist the solidarity needed to help these people (see Galbraith, 1992). Underclasses are emerging especially in poor regions and cities (see Wilson, 1991, on the underclass and the city), leading further to a stratification of poor and rich regions which, in some cases, threatens the regional-political compromises made in the context of the nation-states. During the past decades, cities and regions have become direct players in the world economy. Some argue that the location of cities within the international division of labour under conditions of heightened inter-urban competition has strengthened the bargaining position of cities (see Mayer in Peck and Tickell, 1994: 303). Peck and Tickell, however, comment:

The nation state may have been eroded from above and from below, but the nature of this erosion has been different in each case. Below the nation state, local regulatory systems … have been conferred responsibility without power … Above the nation state, supranational regulatory systems have inherited power without responsibility: remaining wedded to a neo-liberal agenda, they continue to fuel global economic instability with apparent disregard for its damaging effects on national and local economies and its pernicious ecological and social consequences. (Peck and Tickell, 1994: 311)

Another but related issue is that, in the future, policies aimed at increasing the productivity very likely will be propagated under the banner of sustainability, of which a technocratic conception, in which all relevant questions concerning the desired balance between the intergenerational and the intragenerational aspects of social and political justice are set aside is in the making (Sachs, 1995; Van Dieren, 1995). Another related problem concerns the rebirth of nationalism, an ideology which again gains respectability everywhere (see Gellner, 1983; Hobsbawm, 1992). This ideology only too well couples itself to the economic restructuring and changed ideological outlook mentioned. Castells echoes Gellner in arguing that ‘The globalization of power flows and the tribalization of local communities are part of the same fundamental process of historical restructuring; the growing dissociation between the techno-economic development and the corresponding mechanisms of social control of such development’ (Castells, 1989: 350). In fact, nationalism is aimed to spread grimness and to direct widespread discontentment towards the weakest parts of society, such as the ‘ethnic’ minorities, the disadvantaged, the unemployed and the excluded. There are still other difficulties. Political activities move away from the traditional political representational institutions to spheres which traditionally were not considered to be political, such as the mega-enterprise, high-tech research and the media (see Beck, 1988; Huyse, 1994). The ability of capital to circulate globally redefined and weakened the role of traditional state-based politics (see Castells, 1989: 349; Offe, 1984: 76). Speculators determine the rate of interest of money and, by consequence, the overall level of investment and employment. Although the question of technology is paramount and although technology meanwhile has successfully been analysed as a ‘social process’ (Bijker et al., 1993), no serious attempt has yet been made (in planning or in politics) to design a strategy aimed at politicizing democratically decision-making concerning technology (Kirsch, 1995; Van Dijk, 1995). In our societies, politicians and populations only become partners in a discussion about the desirability of a new technology when that progress is already under way. Transnational enterprises pursue a politics of faits accomplis. All these developments contributed to the destruction of the ideal of a society guided by the intersection of planners and democratic popular control, and participation aimed at democracy, normative rationality and social justice.

Challenges for Planning

All of this makes abundantly clear that there is a need for a new role for planners if planning is still to be taken seriously in the future. The planner’s tool-kit, which was designed during a period of uncontested belief in overall economic and social progress in an environment characterized by a seemingly relative abundance of resources, is outdated and must be redesigned and adjusted to the needs and challenges of today’s society. This, however, will prove a difficult task. As Albrechts writes, ‘the impact of incentives, motivation and social mobilization is rather primitive in our planning’ (Albrechts, 1991: 125). The planning challenge seems to be either to adjust to changing conditions or to tackle the roots of the current deterioration in order to find a sounder basis for shaping new and better conditions in society. Accepting the latter view implies the re-emphasis of the political role of the planners. Planners have to present themselves openly as strong partisans for certain outcomes as opposed to others, for the interests of some groups over others, for some styles of governance, for some conceptions of justice, some patterns of future development, and so on (Albrechts, 1991, 1999; Forester, 1989). Planners have to operate in close collaboration with other actors and target groups in the decision-making process as well as to comprehend their interests and power relationships. A new concept for planning, which can be partly drawn from the literature of the 1960s, ideally, is aimed at inducing structural change. The planner’s political role comprises a contribution not only to the substantiation of these changes, but also to the mobilization of the social forces necessary to realize proposed policies.

Newly Emerging Concepts

The planner’s tool-kit is now being filled with highly sophisticated (and highly academic) concepts which, among others, refer to ‘building identities’ (Crow, 1994), ‘seeking consensus’, ‘transferring critical knowledge to action’ (Friedmann, 1987), ‘letting unfold and confront situated knowledges of different communities’ and ‘planning through debate’ (Healey, 1992; Hillier, 1993), providing the necessary infrastructure to make debate, and consequently consensus, possible, maximizing the potential of human capital, establishing mutually beneficial contacts between different actors such as firms, financial sources, knowledge centres and groups, getting in contact with target groups, providing society with a conception of ‘the common good’, mobilizing the social forces necessary to realize politics aimed at structural change. Reading the list, one remembers Wildavsky’s complaint about the literature on planning theory made in 1973: ‘The planner has become the victim of planning; his [sic] own creation has overwelmed him. Planning has become so large that the planner cannot encompass its dimensions. Planning has become so complex planners cannot keep up with it. Planning protrudes in so many directions, the planner can no longer discern its shape’ (Wildavsky, 1973: 127). However, Wildavsky warned, if planning is everything, then maybe it is nothing (Wildavsky, 1973). Most planners have not left the modernist mode of thinking, but often seem to be engaged in an enterprise which, on the theoretical level, consists of a rather associative and intuitive made-up mix of both modernist and postmodernist insights, some of which even contradict each other. This mix obstructs conceptual clearness to the identification of planning key words and fundamentals. This state of affairs makes both the theoretical and the practical work vulnerable. It will be necessary to take postmodern objections seriously and to incorporate these views substantially and systematically—and not marginally or rhetorically—in planning theory. If the postmodernists are right, many actions now undertaken by planners will prove to be largely done in vain or even will prove to be counterproductive. Instead of regarding the admittedly many-faced and polymorphous postmodernist literature as a monster from a safe distance, planners have to confront themselves with these views and have to make up their minds about the fundamentals of planning. Such a confrontation, which eventually may lead to a mutually beneficial debate between postmodern theory and planning practice, cannot be selective and free-ended. In order to elucidate this claim, the focus is on consensus-building as a central concept in planning theory. Comments are also made on the ideal of social justice communicative planners claim to pursue.

What is Consensus-Building?

Critical planning theory, communicative planning and radical planning are related (see Friedmann, 1987: 225). They are concerned with equity and with the distribution of power in society and with the extent to which planning reflects this distribution.

Critical planners do not consider planning to be solely a professional or technical activity. Instead, planners have a responsibility to act militantly and to challenge the status quo. If we want plans to work, planners must gain legitimacy and support in the society in which plans are meant to be implemented. Planners have to redefine problems and have to learn to work as political actors in partnerships with organizations that represent the interests of disenfranchised and unorganized people. This means that a double learning process is called for. Social learning is essential to radical planning. Since planners, like everyone else, draw on different rhetorics and discourses to construct different versions of the world, this would mean that, minimally, planners are able to reach a consensus between themselves on the one hand and the target groups for whom they are advocates on the other. However, the critical question here is whether this is possible.

The case for consensus-building has, of course, very often been made. As Hillier explains (1993: 107), practical reason for planning decisions should involve the Aristotelian notions of persuasion, reflection upon values, prudential judgement and free disclosure of ideas (see also Forester, 1989). Only when each community involved listens to the others and recognizes the legitimacy of the different perspectives, a level of shared understanding can be reached in which areas of congruence or overlapping qualities can be discovered. For Hillier, rational debate is possible between proponents of different truths, provided that their systems of thought intersect at some point and that the instrumentalism of ‘expert culture’ (Dryzek in Hillier, 1993: 108) is not overpowering.

Planning, instead of being dominated by technical approaches and panaceas which make the process relatively inaccessible to laypersons, would then have to be interpretative and interactive. Interaction means that different individuals and organizations be engaged with one another in debate and negotiation. Each group uses its own discourse, knowledge and meaning systems. The role of planning should be to engage in ‘respectful discussion within and between discursive communities, respect implying recognizing, valuing, listening and searching of translative possibilities between different discourse communities’ (Healey, 1992: 9-10).

Hillier (1993) presents an empirical example of the systematic distortion of information and the consequent impacts of it in a particular planning context. She explains that choices are made according to certain power structures and decision rules for preferring certain solutions over others. Planners engage in discourse, conversation, negotiation and persuasion with several groups in society which tell different stories, which see reality differently from each other. Hillier recognizes that in society implicit divergences exist on what reality ‘really’ is and, by consequence, on what is ‘really’ going on. Schwarz and Thompson explain that public discourse suffers from these implict divergences, because societies like ours have political mechanisms only for resolving conflicting interests, not for conflicting views of reality. Because the mechanisms for dealing with conflicting world-views and different, discourse communities are lacking (and because, in discourse, we mainly stick to our own group and the language we ‘understand’), we only seldom notice that perceptions and not only interests in society differ markedly (see Schwarz and Thompson, 1990: 30 on ‘the’—for different actors in different and unequal ways real enough—reality of the energy debate). The word ‘world-view’ is not used here to suggest that different world-views are dependent from different positions that lead to the adhering of different and conflicting ideologies. On the contrary, different variations of the same story told to and by various interest groups, demonstrate the power of discourse not merely to describe but actually to constitute different realities (see Hillier, 1993: 89). By this is meant something like the social construction of reality, reality being the domain made up both by objects and facts, values and social relations leading to various perceptions (and conceptions) of ‘what is’ (see also Schwarz and Thompson, 1990 and Mandelbaum, 1992 on ‘multiple realities’). This does not mean that audiences are not being manipulated in terms of their subject position. As Hillier also puts it, the reality of different realities creates an ideologically potent ‘way of seeing’ issues, which affects the way people act. Habermas’s work on the distortion of communication is a case in point here. Planners, however, have to communicate and also let all those involved communicate. Planning, if not overpowered by technical reason, is an inherently rhetorical project for which there exists no rule books -a project that cannot be properly understood apart from ‘the audiences to which it is directed and the styles in which it is communicated’ (Throgmorton, 1993). This means that planners must have specialized skills for dealing with ‘different truths’, but also that planners cannot avoid asking questions about their values and the legitimation of their professional actions which, of course, intersect with their ‘truth’. In evading such—admittedly complex—issues, many planners attempt to justify their own legitimacy by engaging in a complex set of distortions in communication, designed to obscure and to prevent understanding of their practice and the outcomes they propose.

As long as planning was understood as a solely technical activity, planners did not openly have to bother with the ethical implications of their work. In our society, the society of risks, the noun ‘technical’ functions as a synonym for not having to bother about ethical implications (Beck, 1988). Even in the choosing of goals or the choosing of the ‘optimal’ or most efficient means for achieving ‘desired’ objectives, planning was not considered to be political. However, as Healey and Beck remind us, even if one adopts this view, it does not eliminate the responsibility of planners, engineers and other scientists to deal with the ethical issues inherent in the actions they undertake. Responsibility can never be abdicated. As Hillier writes, ‘planning is itself essentially political. Planners’ actions help to determine who gets what, when and how. So, the question is not whether planning reflects politics, but whose politics it reflects. For whom does the planner speak? What does a planner want to do? Who does she or he serve? Who does she or he exclude? What is the position of the narrative the planner puts forward?’ (Hillier, 1993: 90). What is the planner’s conception of justice and of citizenship? Must he or she hide partiality or bias or be completely open on it? What sort of information is most consonant to the planner and which audiences or groups will he/she find the easiest to communicate with? (See Schwarz and Thompson, 1990 on ‘different rationalities’). Is it, in practice, really possible for the planner to resist the temptation to engage unproportionally more in communication with those with whom she or he feels related, for example, with the higher educated or others who adhere to the same rationality or world-view? (See also Forester, 1989: 31ff; Healey, 1992.)

Members of a community tend to agree because they see everything in relation to their assumed purpose and goals. Members of different communities disagree because, from their respective positions, they see the same issue in completely different manners. Each community constitutes within itself an ensemble of rules as to what constitutes truth within their discourse. These truths often vary and conflict, yet they are all, in themselves, legitimate. Since communication is made of language and narratives, the language and the narrative of planning are not neutral. Rather, they form ‘an institutionalized structure of meanings which channel thought and action in certain directions’ (Hillier, 1993: 92). Planners use different rhetorical styles for different audiences and different partners. This ‘rhetoric of planning’ shows a way in which a planner’s work may become ‘a creative process’ (Dear, 1993), changing presentational information to become more convincing or responsive to several audiences in order to win acceptance for a particular explanation or interpretation.

In this interdisciplinary mix of modernist and postmodernist views, consensus-building does not mean (any more) to speak by means of a (‘the’) language common to all or to create such a language (through the elimination of structures and balances of power that distort free and rational communication) and to reach agreement. Consensus-building has to let unfold human plurality and to respect the different world-views and multiple truths. The planner (still) faces the task to speak in a language that is (equally) comprehensible to all. As Forester writes, mutual understanding depends on ‘the satisfaction of these four criteria: comprehensibility, sincerity, legitimacy and accuracy or truth’ (Forester, 1989: 144). Otherwise, the door is open for confusion, manipulation, deceit and abuse. When it is impossible to gauge the truth, Forester asserts, it is impossible to make a difference between fact and fantasy. The planner has to be able to act as a mediator between his or her own world-view and all the other world-views concerned as well as between the different world-views planners have to bring in communication with each other. The planner must be able to assemble the conflicts and inconsistencies and to alter the balance of power in the advantage of the people she or he speaks and acts for. This, however, is precisely the standpoint criticized and abandoned by postmodernism.

Postmodern Criticism

In contemporary literature on communicative planning, the planner appears as an understander and beholder of a meta-language, that, following postmodernism, cannot exist. There is no planner—or anyone else for that matter—who is able either to incorporate the different narratives and world-views and make the best of them, or, in a Rousseauian manner, to listen to all and to select the best option that then can serve as the basis for a consensus. Also noticeable is that no answer is provided to questions as to how planners should recognize a consensus that is morally right from a consensus that is morally wrong. What, for example, has to happen if mobilization stimulated by planners leads to privativistic forms of life which provide the psychological base for unleashing forces that are of their nature unpolitical (see also Young, 1990)? This is a distinct possibility if communication does not lead to a concept of truth that is also bestowed with moral meaning. Do planners in such cases have the moral duty to amend the agreement or must she or he strive towards agreement irrespective of the content and put their trust in the common sense? What must happen when a consensus or agreement—in the name of democracy and participation—leads to bad planning, because, for example, several goals, some explicit and others implicit, that contradict each other with tactics that are not compatible are pursued at the same time? What must happen if, through mobilization, target groups acquire a sense of identity, but, in doing so, become entrapped in a counter-emancipatory ideology propagated by a political party or social movement (see Crow, 1994; Friedmann, 1987: 276)? Communicative planning requires collective action, which means bottom-up organization. This requirement is often not properly understood by planners who want participation. How do we get the participation we want from the people we envisage? In practice, this is often very difficult or even impossible to achieve. Some groups never organize. Organization supposes a sense of common identity, but a common identity already supposes organization to a certain degree. One also may honestly believe that participation, of itself, will increase the power of poor and underprivileged people. As Benveniste (1989) writes, power equalization does not come automatically with participation (of course, Benveniste makes himself completely incredible when he states that participation, per se, reduces the power of the weak by making them more dependent on the expertise of those who have access to knowledge; see Benveniste, 1989: 67). The conclusion is that working out an emancipatory planning strategy is more difficult than should be expected at first sight.

Communicative planning is not possible without the explication of norms, values and world-views which lead to certain actions. But what has to happen when values and world-views differ so considerably that no consensus concerning goals can be reached? This is the crucial question. Since no homogeneity on values and world-views can be provided for, the traditional idea (and ideal) of a consensus has to be questioned.

Modern and Postmodern Political Theory

Since the focus is on the discussion on the idea (and the ideal) of consensus to be pursued through communicative planning and initiatives of empowerment, it is necessary to explore the debate between modernists and postmodernists. First some general remarks are made. Thereafter, the focus is on the debate between Habermas and Lyotard. Other modernists and postmodernists, such as Arendt on the one side and Foucault and Baudrillard on the other, are used as well.

Modernist thinkers consider themselves to be the inheritors of the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Modernists consider it their task to develop theoretical knowledge that can be of practical use. Rationally, by way of critique, it can be proved that certain ruling conceptions, scientific statements or popular beliefs are one-sided or even fundamentally wrong, this is to say, counterproductive (see Boehm, 1977; Sachs, 1995). This claim is essential if one is to prove that certain emancipatory goals, such as the realization of ‘sustainable development’ (however defined, see Sachs, 1995) or social justice, cannot be realized given the framework of the present route of (capitalist) development and distribution of power (Harvey, 1996; Smart, 1993).

Postmodernists, on the other hand, take the position that the confidence of modern man in her or his thinking and judging faculties as adequate tools for understanding reality has to be relativized. They emphasize that scientific knowledge functions as a filter of its own. This filter lets through certain phenomena, but deliberately ignores others (Kunneman, 1986). Seen from this angle, the postmodernists claim modern science to be a peculiar sort of ideology of its own. To them, modern science cannot function without the propagation of certain myths. One of these is that the modern scientific project is all-encompassing, while, in reality, it is highly selective (see on this from a different angle, Latour, 1987) and to some highly irrational (Beck, 1988; van Reijen, 1988).

As van Reijen (1988) notices these antagonistic social-philosophical and epistemological options have, of course, very different consequences concerning the types of actions, such as planning, one sees fit to undertake in the world. Modernist thinkers consider it possible to formulate appropriate proposals and take actions which, if carried out well, can effectively fight undesirable developments. On the basis of communicative rationality, argumentative processes in society can lead to the popularization of rational insights. Ideally, a consensus, with the maximum level of legitimation, democratic support and approval, can be reached concerning actions to be undertaken. Postmodernists, however, evaluate the adherence of the part of contemporary social scientists to modern theoretical presuppositions, such as the trust put in communicative rationality as an untenable, now outdated and counter-emancipatory ideology (see Kunneman, 1996). ‘The position taken is theoretically untenable because it is assumed that reality is homogenic and knowable to man by way of objective criteria and methods. The position is the more outdated because the path since the Enlightenment does not point to a historic development towards more “humanity’” (van Reijen, 1988: 207, our translation).

Habermas and Lyotard on Rationality and Justice

The debate between Habermas and Lyotard concerns the crucial question whether we have our thinking and acting still under control. This obviously is an important question for planning.


Habermas explains that in the philosophy of the Enlightenment a pure and emancipatory concept of rationality can be found, but, also, that from the eighteenth century onwards the West witnessed an explosion of technical knowledge (and hardware technology—a theme to which Habermas unfortunately pays too little attention, see Feenberg, 1995) and social engineering techniques, ‘Humantechniken’, which invades through economy, law and the state into the life of the individuals, with the result that the potential of communicative rationality becomes severely threatened. To Habermas, the process of reflective modernization disconnected domains such as economy, politics, law and ethics from each other and from the lifeworld. This had the positive result that our capacity to solve problems in each of these domains increased dramatically (see for critique, Boehm, 1977; Achterhuis, 1988). The evolution, however, also had the severe negative effect that goals and norms were disconnected from the emancipatory vision of a humane society (see van Reijen, 1988; Kunneman, 1996). Economy, politics and ethics became relatively autonomous. However, for Habermas, common desirable societal goals, such as manageability, rationality and justice, can be reached intersub-jectively through speech acts—debate, agreement, consensus—by equal, well-informed and honest participants. An idea of the good society can take form in practice through the spread of such acts. Instead of freeing people and increasing the capacity of individuals to speak and take care of themselves for themselves, modern politics and economy ‘parasite’ on the lifeworld of individuals. Habermas uses the word ‘parasitizing’ because the subsystems always remain dependent—although they intrude on it violently—on the original reserve of common sense and solidarity. Eventually, if, due to all sorts of developments, the ‘parasitizing’ of the subsystems become counterproductive, one faces the situation of societal unmanageability (‘Unübersichtlichkeit’, see Denayer, 1994; Habermas, 1985; Kunneman, 1986; van Reijen, 1988;).

Put in a nutshell, this can be said to be the critique Habermas develops throughout his work. His aim is to restore the lost unity of technical (functionalist and instrumentalist) reason and moral responsibility. This becomes clear in his magnum opus The Theory of Communicative Action. Here Habermas partly repeats his diagnosis: Western culture is engaged in a process of modernization (see The Theory, Vol. I. § 2; see also Mannheim, 1951; Sass, 1992). This process leads to the differentiation of subsystems (Vol. I. § 3). This evolution in turn leads to the reign of instrumental reason (‘Zweckrationalität’) (Vol. I, § 4). As a consequence, men and women become cogs in a machine, since lifeworld and system decouple under a regime of exponential technical progress (Vol. 2, § 5). The critical questions as to the why and to the justness of things cannot be put anymore. The communicative reason (‘Wertrationalität) becomes destroyed. However—and this is Habermas’s main thesis -through action people can redeem communicative rationality. It is the task of critical theory to show that the disparities and contradictions between the subsystems can be united on a higher level of modernization (Vol. 2, §§ 6, 7 and 9). The historical development of modernity may lead to all sorts of pathological phenomena, but this does not prove the wrongness of the modern project. For Habermas, through rational critique and communicative practice, modernity can still be ‘completed’ in an emancipatory way (Kunneman, 1996; Smart, 1993; van Reijen, 1988).


Lyotard takes a totally different position. Lyotard argues that the ‘grand narratives’, the philosophy of the Enlightenment (liberalism) and Marxism, have failed. This is due to the fact that in these narratives a heterogenic, many-faced and antagonistic reality is analysed under one point of view only (see van Reijen, 1988; Kunneman, 1996). Both the philosophy of the Enlightenment and Marxism make the fault of forcing (!) everything under the yoke of a great theory which, under the pretence and the pretext of universal emancipation, denies other (‘non-universal’) views the right to exist (see also Latour, 1987). Lyotard explains postmodernism to be ‘the state of our culture following the transformation which, since the end of the nineteenth century, has altered the game rules for science, literature and the arts’ (Lyotard, 1979: 5). Postmodernism is also defined as ‘incredulity towards meta-narratives’ (Lyotard, 1979: 5). Lyotard explains that he uses the term modern to ‘designate any science that legitimates itself with reference to a meta-discourse … making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as … the emancipation of the rational, … or the rule of consensus between sender and addressee of a statement’ (Lyotard, 1979: 16). As van Reijen (1988) explains, for Lyotard, the status of knowledge altered as societies entered the post-industrial age. Lyotard dates this development at the end of the 1950s. Lyotard concentrates on scientific knowledge understood as discourse. This allows him to treat knowledge as something which stands or falls depending on its relationship to other discourses or meta-narratives. This in turn makes it possible to treat science as something which can be commodified and alienated from its producers (see also Smart, 1993; Kunneman, 1996). The knowledge-society is an exploitative and alienating one, because it is built on capitalist lines with an elite class of decision-makers having access to knowledge and the distribution of it. The postmodern condition, however, can alter these circumstances—and thus can be emancipatory—by way of an atomization of the social into flexible networks of language games and by the critique of games which attempt to increase performance and to appropriate power unto themselves. Obviously one cannot be further removed from the position taken by Habermas. Lyotard sharply attacks Habermas and the possibility of consensus:

[C]onsensus is a component of the system, which manipulates it in order to maintain and improve its performance [the legitimation of the system-power]. Consensus is a horizon that is never reached … For this reason, it seems neither possible, nor even prudent, to follow Habermas in orienting our treatment of the problem of legitimation in the direction of a search for universal consensus through what he calls Diskurs … (Lyotard, 1979: 36)

Modern life was organized around grand narratives, the Ideas of Progress, Emancipation, Enlightenment. They convey a sense that the narratives of the separate value-spheres are moving in the same direction. But these narratives have lost their credibility. Post-industrial developments led to the commodification of knowledge (see also Beck, 1988). As van Reijen (1988: 212ff.) explains, for Lyotard the performance of the total system replaces truth as the yardstick of knowledge and justice as the yardstick of a humane society. The cultural production of society has dissolved into a series of localized and flexible, but incommensurable networks of language games (see also Smart, 1993; see for a critique Callinicos, 1989). Since the cultural is the source of legitimation for the social, traditional social structures, such as nation-states, political parties, professions (such as planning) and institutions, historical traditions lose their capacity to attract engagement and support. Lyotard envisions a society in which, at best, flexible networks of language games provide localized capacity for resistance to total (becoming totalitarian?) performativity (Smart, 1993; van Reijen, 1988).

To substantiate this, Lyotard cites the contradiction of labour and capital. In Western democracies, there exist institutions that mediate between labour and capital. Individual conflicts eventually can get resolved by courts, specialized in these matters. But this constitutes no proof of homogeneity. Courts can take decisions between parties, but leave intact the antagonistic relation between the two systems. A labourer cannot prove before a court of law that his or her labour creates surplus value which the employer creams off. He or she only can make use of the dominant capitalistic idiom to say what labour is—and by doing so labour becomes encapsulated as a value (see also Baudrillard, 1988: 98ff). The labourer cannot use expressions he or she finds more appropriate. There simply is no institution in society through which men and women can speak truthfully and authentically to each other (see van Reijen, 1988: 216ff).

As van Reijen (1988: 218ff.) writes, Lyotard also gives a few clues which may be relevant for planning, politics and justice. To begin with, the attempt to realize a certain ‘blueprint’ or utopian ideal, such as the realization of a more humane and free society, cannot function as the guiding principle for political actions. Instead, men and women can only try to treat others as if such a society already existed. Justice and rightness are thus not ‘great’ ideals to be pursued as an apart programme, with a lot of specialized machinery, ‘great’ ideology and fastidious fuss, but something one has to practise in everyday life towards the others one is or feels connected with (Lyotard, 1983). As van Reijen also notes, since language games and world-views differ and since justice and rightness remain somehow vague, such an undertaking necessarily remains always fragile (see Nussbaum, 1989). The argument on what, for example, justice is, cannot be closed, communicatively or otherwise, not only because there is no discursive bridge between the ideal and the concrete, but because actors are engaged in different incommensurable language games. For Lyotard, the idea of a free, egalitarian society is unimaginable because no empirical reality corresponds with it (Lyotard, 1983). In consequence, every theory in which statements and proposals in favour of the realization of such an utopian society are made in fact abuses people by forcing them into an instrumentalway of thinking and acting, as if the realization of a humane society could ever be achieved by either decision-making (poiesis) (such as planning) or/and politics (praxis). For Lyotard, freedom, and all other political ideals (normative rationality, justice, proper steering), are contrafactual. They cannot be seen as goals that can be implemented technically (Lyotard, 1983).

Postmoderns on Power and Reality

The postmodernist critique on the modern project is not exhausted by reproducing Lyotard’s forceful claims. In the next section the implications of postmodern criticism for communicative planning practices and planning theory will be looked at.

Villa (1992: 713) notes three postmodern objections to the modern project of the ‘recovery of the public realm’. This motto indeed adequately captures the goal of Arendt’s political theory and of Habermas’s critical theory (see Villa, 1992). The postmodern objections point to fundamental difficulties and contradictions concerning the presuppositions of the type of project theorists such as Arendt and Habermas—and, by consequence, communicative planners—engage in. The first objection, originated in the work of Foucault, is called the power objection. Foucault radically questioned the idea of a coercion-free space by retheorizing the nature of power in the modern age. Villa’s second objection is the epistemological one. This has already been touched upon in the discussion of the possibility of a unified, consensus-based public realm in an era that has witnessed the death of legitimating meta-narratives and the fragmentation of discursive practice into heterogeneous language games. Villa’s third objection is called the ontological one. This objection perhaps is even the most powerful because in it, following Baudrillard, the peculiar reality attributed to a space, called the public realm, is questioned.

To begin with the first objection, both Arendt and Habermas make a distinction between power on the one hand and violence, force, coercion, repression and so on on the other (see Arendt, 1972; Habermas, 1977). For both Arendt and Habermas, power is the capacity of people to act freely and equally in concert, to let unfold human plurality. Both Arendt and Habermas refer to the possibility of power, which grows out of discursive and agonistic interactions, as opposed to coercion and violence, and, for both Arendt and Habermas, hierarchy has no place in politics properly understood. However, a good deal—but not all (see Denayer, 1994; Zwart, 1995)—of Foucault’s research into the internalized microtechniques and panoptical mechanisms at work in society, leads to the view that the Arendtian/Habermasian distinction between power and violence has become outdated in the modern age. If (repressive) ‘normalization-power’ works through each of us, indeed, if, as Foucault explains, the (modern invention of the) individual only comes into being through this repressive but intensely productive power, then there is little or no point in pursuing an empowerment programme aimed at liberation or dissociation from, to borrow Gramscian/Althusserian language, openly recognizable repressive ‘ideological state apparata’, or in communicative planning that is aimed at letting people unfold their plurality in the hope they will agree on a consensus or on the need for social justice and so on (see Villa, 1992: 715ff). Such undertakings risk being counterproductive for the reason that they bring with them the illusion that people can accumulate power without recognizing the effect that power can accumulate people. From Foucault’s point of view, Arendt and Habermas deal with a ‘power-free zone’ in society that nowhere exists. As Villa writes, the positive model of power advocated by public theory and the negative one upheld by liberalism both blind one to the constitutive workings of modern power and its role in the fabrication of subjects (Villa, 1992: 715). The limitations of public realm theory are most apparent in its naive reliance upon and belief in conditions of symmetry, non-hierarchy, plurality and reciprocity as adequate safeguarders of a non-violent space and of undistorted communication. Following Foucault, the elimination of what constitutes the antipolitical foes according to the public realm theory -hierarchy and asymmetry in the political sphere -is not essential to the functioning of disciplinary power because, in his ontology, subjugation and subjectification go hand in hand. Foucault cannot imagine ideal speech situations. For him, the realization of an ideal (or even good) speech situation would mean no more than the achievement of ‘pseudoautonomy in the conditions of pseudosymmetry’ (Fraser in Villa, 1992: 715).

Leaving the second objection to later, the third objection made by postmodernists, the ontological one, is directed against the specific reality claimed for the public realm by public realm theorists. Here, Arendt is a case in point. Arendt describes the public sphere phenomenologically as a space common to all: the public space is the realm of appearances made up by action (praxis). Only action, which potentializes the plurality of men and women and leads to a diversity of perspectives, creates a distinctive, truly human world. This ‘in-between’ is the proper domain of freedom and intersubjectivity Arendt believes that the reality of a space of appearances common to all is guaranteed as long as the in-between stays in function. Where the public spirit animates a community, Arendt believes, the sensus communis remains strong, providing a non-transcendental ground for action and judgement (Arendt, 1982). This common feeling for the world, in which all the others of the community are taken into account and which is grounded in the Aristotelian’s prudent judgement and Kant’s practical judgement and in which no claim whatsoever to extrapolitical forces is made, seems congruent with and sympathetic to communicative planning (especially also if one considers Arendt’s localism). However, Arendt has come under attack from especially Baudrillard.

For Baudrillard, man really is ‘a child gone astray in the forests of symbols’ (Kundera in Beck, 1988: 62). Baudrillard does not only speak of the production of culture, but also of its consumption in which knowledge is centrally organized and controlled. The effectivity of culture is so strongly increased that only the relations between its symbolic contents, its ‘signs’, have force. The condition of postmodernity exists in ‘hypersimulation’, by which is meant a double counter-reflection in which life simulates the already simulated contents of the mass media (see Villa, 1992). The social does not mediate the signs since they have neither labour value nor use value, but only consumption value. Everything becomes absorbed by signs. They become a ‘hyper-reality’ in which only simulations exist. Baudrillard also describes the social as a mass, something without any meaning, which makes politics, intelligence, empathy, initiative and planning all quite impossible: ‘With the masses, the logic of the social is at its extreme; the point where its finalities are inverted and where it reaches its point of inertia and extermination… The masses are the ecstasy of the social … the mirror where the social is reflected in its total immanence’ (Baudrillard, 1988: 188; cf. Beck, 1988: 184).

Baudrillard and Lyotard now make two objections against Arendt (see also Villa, 1992: 718). Arendt’s description of a public space adds up to a dichotomy between an authentic, real in-between and its inauthentic, manipulated counterpart, the former both condition and result of action, the latter being nothing more than the proliferation of private and idiosyncratic images that only too well serve to destroy our feeling in the world (see also Harvey, 1989). Baudrillard makes the point that this way of looking at things does not mark a final break with the modern representational episteme. Postmodernism has to leave the order of appearances/simulations behind. Only then one can observe that ‘reality’ -including Arendt’s space of appearances—is presently generated as a simulation effect. From this point of view, Arendt’s ontology prevents us from seeing just how truly lost the world is, or, in Arendt’s language, the feeling of ‘wordliness’ and in consequence the possibilities for politics, communicative planning and empowerment (Villa, 1992: 718).

Returning to the second objection to Arendt’s modernist ontology, this has been formulated by Lyotard. For Lyotard, politics has to exist without (tyrannical) ideas of, for example, justice (for, what is just if no consensus can be brought about the just or about justice and if consensus is a suspect value?). Arendt also bans all non-political, transcendental and other standards out of political life properly speaking, but she operationalizes the Kantian notion of sensus communis in an attempt to save politics from arbitrariness. For Lyotard, this appeal to the notion of sensus communis cannot be taken seriously: the withering away of common sense in postmodernity simply means that ‘there cannot be a sensus communis’ (Lyotard in Villa, 1992: 719). Social identities have exploded, with the consequence that what is acceptable to some remains illegitimate to others, while there is no way to settle this dispute.

Postmodern Planning, Collective Identity and Social Justice

Let us now see how the above-mentioned views can be incorporated in planning theory. Which consequences are involved? Healey (1992: 101) puts much focus on how democratic values are reflected in plans. The plan is a product of interaction between several parties. The plan may become a point of reference for continuing interaction within which discourses may evolve. One of the objectives is to offer rhetorical strategies. Recognizing the postmodern culture, this means ‘recognition of the plurality of discourse communities… and means explicitly addressing the challenge of “interdiscursive communication”’ (Healey, 1992: 103). Rhetoric is constitutive for planning. As Throgmorton (1993: 334) argues, planners should strive towards ‘a rhetoric that helps to create and sustain a public, democratic discourse. This should be a persuasive discourse that permits planners to talk coherently about contestable views of what is good, right, and feasible. Planners should strive to create arenas that facilitate and encourage just such a persuasive, public discourse’ (Throgmorton, 1993: 336; see also Faludi and Korthals Altes, 1994). What are the difficulties involved in view of what was said earlier?

Massey has commented on Mouffe’s explanation that ‘political practice in a democratic society does not consist in defending the rights of preconstituted identities, but rather in constituting those identities themselves in a precarious and always vulnerable terrain’ (Mouffe in Massey, 1995: 284). Massey emphasizes the crucial point that political actors do not bring already appropriately constituted identities into political arenas and planning settings. Indeed, as Arendt already pointed out, the political actor has no distinctive identity before he or she sets foot in the public domain. Moreover, when he or she does this, his or her identity always remains somewhat hidden to him or her (see Arendt, 1958: 221). Politics is a fundamentally rhetorical project and people gain identity by engaging in common rhetorical enterprises. This does not mean that the past is a blank sheet: ‘Political subjects are … constituted in political practice, but they are not constructed out of nothing’ (Bauman, 1992; Massey, 1995: 286). There always is a history, a biography of the person (the same can be said of the identity of place; see Massey, 1995). This is, of course, as Healey (1992: 106) has pointed out, already important for political and planning purposes. People obviously can be hurt, frustrated, not able to tell the difference between manipulation and planning in their advantage, unwilling to cooperate and so on. Massey’s point, however, is still more relevant. Planners often work with communities that are already well defined and therefore highly organized (see, for example, Amdam, 1995, on rural municipalities in Norway). But what about communities that are in the making or different target groups that partly overlap? Does the planner in that case have to establish the boundaries of the community or target group which he or she wants to work for? Obviously, his or her work has to remain manageable. The planner, at one point or another, has to decide who will participate in and therefore will ‘belong’ to the community or target group and who will not. This also seems necessary for the reason that there cannot exist an ‘us’, a community or target group, without an outside ‘them’. Political communities and social groups precisely define themselves by defining others as non-members.

However, several questions do arise here. The first problem concerns the criteria planners use to establish boundaries in a way that is both effective and just. A first way out of this perhaps is to plan and advocate for the benefit of the human species. A second (and more realistic) way out is to recognize that people can act together without a strong sense of an ‘us’ in any traditional sense, such as the family, the neighbourhood, the Gemeinschaft, the party affiliation, the nation and so forth. In reality, the ‘us’ always exists, both of proponents of common political principles and goals to be agreed on and dissenters to these principles and goals. However, proponents and dissenters are not always the same individuals. They change position. Therefore, the ‘us’ can also include those who do not agree only about the common political principles or those who do not agree about the political framework, necessary for the division lines to become manifest. It must be possible to empower a ‘community’, seen as something without boundaries, without knowing beforehand what political forms and goals will be agreed upon. In effect, paradoxical as it may sound, such an empowerment programme comes close to planning unpredictability. However, such planning would mean empowerment, because it would create the conditions, especially worldliness and plurality, for political initiative, coalition building, and freedom.

Our viewpoint is not only normative (or strategic). If empowerment means anything real, it needs to proceed in this way. Freedom and dissociation obviously cannot be planned by the state or its advocates. Communicative planning cannot only be pursued from a top-down approach in which planners of city A decide to advocate marginalized target group 22. Group 22, however, only exists as an essentialist abstraction in the planner’s mind or—still more often—only in the minds of the politicians who decide to raise funds for this ‘entity’. In this way, politicians play an important part in the definition of groups. However, politicians know only too well how to touch changing, latent, formations and bring them to the surface as new political identities, for example along nationalist lines (see Massey, 1995: 286). Communicative planning then can become a morally doubtful and practical counterproductive enterprise. As Hillier writes, politicians and officials have the power to manipulate information and actors. The state can use professional mystique to obscure, can make superficial concessions, can simulate procedural instead of substantive gains. There is still another danger here. This is that accepted within this way of proceeding is the classic ethnographic notion that each individual can belong to one, and only one, discrete (unambiguous, non-overlapping) cultural entity. However, in the real world a plurality of partially disjunctive, partially overlapping communities exist that criss-cross between the people planners address and for whom they speak (see Rosaldo, 1995: 179). As Alarcón (1995: 10) writes, social reality is made up of ‘selves’ who occupy simultaneous social axes of gender, class, race and sexuality. There is, for example, Alarcón argues, no target group corresponding to the entity women. Feminists—and communicative planners pleading for women—must give up appeals to a unitary idea of ‘women’, because it inevitably excludes some of them and impedes coalition-building, but instead must favour the possibility of subjects who are aware of themselves as occupying multiply social junctures, leading to pragmatic politics: ‘The multiple-voiced subjectivity is lived in resistance to competing notions for one’s allegiance or self-identification … The choice of one (I am a woman) or many themes (I am a white working-class woman) is both a theoretical and a political decision’ (Alarcón in Seidman, 1995: 11). This is crucial. Planners cannot take identities for granted, for this is precisely the way in which, as Foucault explains, subjugation and subjectification become activated. If this is not understood, attempts for getting empowerment on the rails may lead to the emancipation of (wo)man, the concept of (wo)man, however, being a fraud (see Foucault, 1973; see also Rorty, 1995; Young, 1990). The planner must strive towards groups-in-the-making, without a sense of an ‘us’. People must have the opportunity to gather. Then they will make out of themselves ‘who’ they are and which goals they decide to pursue (see Barber, 1988). Communicative planners must question social theories in which a priori given, intentional egos as the ontological origins of social relations are presented. Identities—just as theories—never exist a priori, but are always the products of rhetorical and practical interactions. If one does not recognize this, one can never gain access to the hidden power relations which structure identities and social life and present things as so-called natural, unproblematic givens and facts. As mentioned earlier, communicative planners must be very careful not to emancipate groups of people as egoistic creatures who, in turn, want for themselves as great as possible a piece of the social product, but without engaging in larger considerations concerning the justice of this distribution, the conditions of all or the common interest of the society or the world we live in. Furthermore, as Young (1990: 71) also states, communicative planners must realize that programmes aimed at redistributing power make little sense because power is not a possession that can be abstracted from its owners and distributed democratically into society. Rather, following Foucault, power structures relationships and presents these interpretations (of, for example, democracy, groups and solidarity), though disciplinary techniques and mimetic eagerness (see Girard, 1972) as normal and given.

The exclusion paradigm is also clear on a more immediate and practical level. In planning theory it is accepted that the communicative planner has to offer justification towards the in-group only. Moreover, definition of decision-situations can be understood only by those who have participated in their formulation. As Faludi says ‘understanding a plan is reserved for those who, in a sense, are part of it’ (Faludi, 1986: 102; added emphasis). Here the inherently contradictory situation of the planner, who has to act as advocate but has to do this within the margins and definitions laid down by policy, is obvious. Furthermore, in putting it this way, Faludi does not reckon with the fact that the planner has an interest in the existence of the social order which lets him or her execute his or her profession, which is to act in favour of groups given certain margins.

For Healey, Forester, Albrechts and many others, planning is considered to be an intrinsically political enterprise. To state this will certainly function to begin a discussion, not to end one (see Forester, 1989: 156). Young explains (Young, 1990: 39ff) that justice should refer not only to distribution, but also to the institutional conditions necessary for the development and exercise of individual capacities and collective communication and cooperation. She cites five aspects in which oppression becomes factual. These aspects are exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence. Of course, planners cannot engage with each of these aspects, but planners should always be aware of these aspects and fight against them wherever possible. Exploitation refers to the structural process of transfer of the results of the labour of one social group to the benefit of other groups. As Young (1990: 53) explains, the injustice of exploitation consists in social processes that bring about transfers of energies from one group to another to produce unequal distribution, and in the way in which social institutions enable a few to accumulate while they constrain many more. Bringing about justice where there is exploitation requires reorganization of institutions and practices of decision-making, alteration of the division of labour, and similar measures of institutional, structural and cultural change. Marginalization primarily refers to unemployment. Marginals are people the system of labour cannot or will not use. Whole categories of people nowadays are expelled from participation in social life and often thus subjected to severe material, cultural and intellectual deprivation. Marginalization, as Young (1990: 54ff) writes, surely touches on basic structural issues of justice. Powerlessness refers to several injustices, such as the inhibition in the development of one’s capacities, lack of decision-making power and exposure to disrespectful treatment because of the status one occupies (see Young, 1990: 55ff). To experience cultural imperialism means to experience how the dominant meaning of a society renders the particular perspective of one’s own group invisible at the same time as it stereotypes one’s group and marks it out as the Other (see also Melucci, 1989). Violence refers to attacks on persons or property with the motive to damage, intimidate, humiliate or destroy (see Young, 1990: 61ff).

Young defines justice as ‘the institutional conditions that make it possible for all to participate in decision-making, and to express their feelings, experience, and perspective on social life in contexts where others can listen’ (Young, 1990: 91). In this, democracy is seen both as an element and a condition of social justice. Justice, for Young, requires participation in public discussion and processes of democratic decision-making. All persons should have the opportunity to participate in the deliberation and decision-making of the institutions to which their actions contribute or which directly affect their actions. However, as postmodern criticism shows us, justice and democracy will be much more difficult to ‘achieve’ than many communicative planners nowadays still are willing to accept.


This chapter has offered some thoughts as to how emancipatory politics might be realized. Obviously much work in both planning theory and political philosophy still has to be done. Science has no other duty than to destroy mystifications. Hopefully, at the end of this theoretical journey, undertaken by many scholars initiating many discourses, ultimately the mystification of harmony, the biggest of all, will not be spared. For, as Harvey also has written, this really is paramount:

[T]he most imposing and effective mystification of all lies in the presupposition of harmony at the still point of the turning capitalist world. Perhaps there lies at the fulcrum of capitalist history not harmony but a social relation of domination of capital over labor … Should we reach that conclusion, then we would surely witness a markedly different reconstruction of the planner’s world-view than we are currently seeing. We might even begin to plan the reconstruction of society, instead of merely planning the ideology of planning. (Harvey, 1982: 231)

Empowerment means dissociation: its aim is to pursue a more autonomous development that will be guided by the needs internal to the place, and whose results will directly benefit the people (see Friedmann, 1987: 311; Lipietz, 1994: 352; Sachs, 1995: 11ff.). This is an agenda aimed at empowerment: people’s living places have to be extended outward in a political sense to gain control over the surrounding economy. However, as Friedmann mentions, the struggle over time and place, or over greater access to any of the other bases of social power will not, in itself, lead to empowerment. What makes the situation so problematic is that the creation of new productive employment along the traditional ‘modernization’ route is completely inadequate for meeting the aggregate needs of the population. An empowerment programme has to be aimed at making people less dependent on global capital (see Castells, 1989: 353).