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ADVOCACY PLANNING: THE QUESTION OF FOR WHOM
The four approaches to planning just described do not specify for whom the planning shall be done. Absent any specific statement on that point, you would naturally assume that the object of the planning is to serve some general public interest. In the 1960s a rather different strand of planning theory appeared. Its focus was not on how to plan so much as for whom to plan and to whom the planner should give his or her loyalty.
Paul Davidoff is the founder of advocacy planning.11 His career in planning began in a conventional way, and for a time he was a planner for a small town in Connecticut. But he soon decided that his real loyalties lay in a different direction from serving an affluent suburban population. Much of his subsequent career was devoted to attacking what was termed exclusionary zoning in the suburbs. He did this through a combination of speaking, writing, and litigation.
Beyond the specific issue of suburban zoning, he developed the much more general concept of advocacy planning. In this view the proper role for the planner is not to serve a general public interest but rather to serve the interests of the least fortunate or least-well-represented groups in society, which he identified as poor and minority groups.12 He denied that planning could be value free or that it could be a primarily technical and objective process:
The justice of the present social allocation of wealth, knowledge, skill and other social goods is clearly in debate. Solutions to questions about the share of wealth and other social commodities that should go to different classes cannot be technically derived; they must arise from social attitudes.
The Davidoffian view clearly comes from the left-hand side of the political spectrum. He was not willing to allow the distribution of wealth and privileges to be settled by the marketplace, as someone on the right would be. The view embodied in the language—that there are distinct classes and that which classes get what should be a matter of collective decision—is itself a distinctly left view. So, too, is the idea that knowledge and skills are socially allocated, rather than individually acquired.
The planner in the Davidoffian scheme would represent not a general public interest but a client, much as an attorney does. He or she would take the view that there should be a plurality of plans rather than a single plan:
There is or should be a Republican and Democratic way of viewing city development; that there should be conservative and liberal plans, plans to support the private market and plans to support greater government control. There are many possible roads for a community to travel and many plans should show them.
Davidoff's view disturbed many planners. The notion that there was no central public interest to be served was hardly the way the profession had traditionally seen its role. What did a multiplicity of plans mean in practice? One cannot build a building or a machine from a welter of contrasting plans.
The idea of serving a client rather than the public at large also raises some issues of personal ethics. Suppose you are committed to the idea of advocacy planning but you are hired as a town planner. How much loyalty do you owe the group for whom you think you should be the advocate, and how much loyalty do you owe the taxpayers, who are paying your salary? If you work for a consultant hired by a town, the question is essentially the same. How much loyalty do you owe the political body that pays your consulting fee rather than some other group or cause? If you cannot give full loyalty to the client who pays your fee, is it right that you take that fee? These are not easily answered questions.
The advent of advocacy planning should be viewed in the context of the 1960s, a time when the Civil Rights movement was confronting America with the history of racism and the Vietnam War was splitting the nation in half. At present there are still a certain number of planners who see themselves as advocacy planners, but the movement passed its peak many years ago.
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