As luck would have it, we are reading an old piece of Harvey’s in my planning theory class, the 1978 piece from Planning Theory in the 1980s. Rereading that piece (and, yes, perhaps some lingering guilt at having called him “lazy and slow-moving” in a post yesterday) has prompted me to praise Harvey, to say what an incredibly concise and dead-on critique of planning he offers. The gist is that the instinct of planning, its deepest hope, is to soothe, to salve, to solve, to create agreement, to calm the waters. To preserve order. This instinct is essential to the preservation of capitalist economic relations, and so to the domination of the bourgeoisie over everyone else. Harvey’s words:
In striving to affect reconciliation, the planner must perforce resort to the idea of the potentiality for harmonious balance in society. And it is on this fundamental notion of social harmony that the ideology of planning is built. The planner seeks to intervene to restore “balance” but the “balance” implied is that which is necessary to reduce civil strife and to maintain the requisite conditions for the steady accumulation of capital (p. 224).
…definitions of the public interest…are set according to the requirements for the reproduction of the social order which is, whether we like the term or not, a distinctively capitalistic social order (p. 224).
Despite the many flavors of planning theory that exist, he argues,
the commitment to the ideology of harmony within the capitalist social order remains the still point upon which the gyrations of planning ideology turn….Perhaps there lies at the fulcrum of capitalist history not harmony but a social relation of domination of capital over labor (p. 231).
[I can’t resist saying, though, and q.v. my post yesterday: he does reduce everything to capitalism, and so he misses the fact that planning is also a state activity, and the state also very much wants to preserve the social order in which it wields sovereign power. Its policies also seek to preserve the domination of the state over its subjects.]