Unit: Wageningen School of Social Sciences

Location: Lumen 1, Lumen

Organisation: Land Use Planning Group

Wednesday December 14, at  15.30 hrs.

Speaker: Kristof Van Assche

Contemporary politicians, partly influenced by the need to cut budgets, put a strong emphasis on a further decentralisation of planning policies and a shift of tasks and responsibilities from governmental organisations to the civil society. At the same time we indeed see a growing number of citizens actively taking up the management of their environment. They organise themselves in formal and informal ways and initiate a wide range of activities and plans, either with or without the support of public organisations.

Both public and private parties are searching for new ways to distribute roles, tasks and responsibilities. This search touches upon some of the essential issues of spatial planning, like democratic ideals, social equalities, environmental sustainability, liveability and quality of life, are addressed.

The Land Use Planning Group has invited Kristof Van Assche, Professor Planning & Community Development at Minnesota State University to shed his light upon these issues, drawing upon his extensive knowledge of planning in general and political philosophy in particular.

In his presentation, Kristof will draw on the political philosophy of Niccolo Machiavelli and the tradition of civic republicanism that emerged from his thought to rethink and reconfigurate the concepts of informal institution, transparency and citizen participation. In a Machiavellian perspective, neither perfect laws nor perfect organizations exist, and democracies can only work if a) citizens remain vigilant and active, b) if these activities adapt to changing circumstances and c) if they lead to changing laws and organizational structures. Harnessing the power of democracy is harnessing the power of difference in perspective, and harnessing the power of conflict. Transparency in this regard is a highly ambiguous concept, since the optimal competition of ideas in a polity requires both sharing and hiding. He will develop this line of reasoning and try to envision the implications for spatial planning policies.

Discussant: Roel During, project leader Social Innovation at Alterra

More information: Raoul Beunen, Land Use Planning Group