Tracing Resident Antagonisms in Urban Development: Agonistic Pluralism and Participatory Planning

New Research on Resident involvement in Urban Development and Participatory Planning.

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This article draws on research with resident action groups and other alliances in Sydney. It investigates the ways in which citizens work beyond the formal planning system to approach and achieve their urban development goals. The post‐political treatment of community voices in planning relies on the centrality of consensus politics in current participatory planning regimes.

By providing a democratic outlet that is far removed from the actual development outcome, powerful urban actors can silence through inclusion. Planning theorists have posited that one pathway beyond this post‐political moment in urban planning is provided by Chantal Mouffe’s critique of Habermasian communicative theory and consensus politics, which she bases on her theory of agonistic pluralism. Following Mouffe, to achieve a productive agonistic politics, any rigid antagonisms between “enemies” need to be moderated to more mutable “adversarial” positions.

However, we have little knowledge of the conditions that might precipitate such a change in praxis. To address this gap between theory and praxis, we use focus group data to show how local resident action groups and urban alliances work through three modalities of antagonism to achieve their urban development goals. We add empirical weight to the idea that citizens can shift from rigid and fundamental antagonisms to the potentially more productive adversarial politics of agonistic pluralism but therein expose some limitations with how Mouffe’s ideas are being applied to urban planning.



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