Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Searching for the framework for a world history of planning

Shun-ichi J. Watanabe


As the only non-West council members of the IPHS, the author thinks this society has been concerned mainly about the planning history of the Western Europe and the North America. He thinks his mission is to widen the research interests of the society into other areas of the world in order to make the society really 'international' in nature.

There are relatively few research reports from the non-West and particularly developing countries that occupy the great portion of world. One of the reasons for this is that scholars generally consider that there is few planning history cases there which are 'worth knowing.'

The author poses two questions. 'Is planning history the history of good planning only?' and 'Is planning history the history of all kinds of planning, namely, a history of good and bad planning?' His answer is YES. It is because it is necessary to understand the structure of 'bad' planning to improve it toward 'good' planning and also because discussing 'what is good or bad planning' would open the possibility of our understanding the social nature of planning. It is important to critically examine the concept of 'good' planning of the West, which has been generally considered as the planning model universally applicable in the entire world. What is needed is to understand it not as the 'absolute' model but as a particular result of Western history, and to 'relativise' it. Such 'relativity' of modern Western urban planning is an indispensable necessary precondition for a 'world history.'

In order to consider the nature of planning as a social technology, the author proposes a theoretical framework of the 'planning world' with the relationship among (1) 'planning system' as the technical core, (2) its 'social base' that supports and restricts it and (3) 'built environment' that it aims at and it creates.

Then the author presents the methodology of 'comparative planning' research as an approach that attempts to get an accurate understanding of the 'planning world' through comparing the similarities and differences of various 'planning worlds.'

Based upon these theoretical framework and methodology, he discusses: (1) the social support for the planning system; (2) the international transfer of planning system; and (3) the social responsibility of planners.

Finally the author presents a crucial question: 'How can we prove the modern Western urban planning system, which spread throughout the world during the 20th century and which was proved to be really a useful social technology, as equally useful for the whole world society during the 21st century, particularly in the poor developing countries?'

In conclusion, the author encourages that all the IPHS scholars to bring the various national histories they have experienced in each country to this conference, to discuss them from the global perspective, and eventually begin to weave them together into a contemporary and future 'world history' of planning.

Text complet: HTML