Planning the Good Community by Jill Grant

By Jill Grant

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Of course, planning theorists are also interested in what makes a good N EW URBANISM(S) ASCENDANT 15 city, but they are more likely to define ‘goodness’ in terms of equity, democracy, or social justice, rather than beauty, harmony, or balance. Practitioners who read conventional planning theory for guidance might reasonably complain of élitism in the academy. In recent decades, the better known planning theorists like John Forester have tended to turn to remarkable European thinkers like Jurgen Habermas or Michel Foucault for inspiration.

We want to make those places good for experiencing our lives. New urbanists are trying to envision and create the good community, to enhance the normative theory of urban form. In that pursuit they join utopians and others who have preceded them in the search for the good community. New urban approaches are already influencing popular ideas of the good community. Many municipalities have engaged in visioning processes in recent years to set the public agenda for strategic action and investment (Shipley and Newkirk 1998).

In a 2001 speech, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced funding for more police and more video surveillance (CCTV) as part of an initiative to improve urban livability and keep cities competitive. While new urban projects may not rely on CCTV for social control, new urbanism advocates ‘eyes on the street’. Designers are encouraged to use built form to discipline N EW URBANISM(S) ASCENDANT 23 behaviour. ‘The exercise of discipline presupposes a mechanism that coerces by means of observation’ (Foucault 1977:171).

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