Conservancy and Development Ethics

If planned development and conservation is to aspire to a homologous trinity -equitable material growth, harmonious social wellbeing, environmental balance - then we can surely search planning theory to garner the societal and individual points of philosophical attachment to that trinity. What emerges is strong evidence in support of Friedmann's (1987: 87) contention that 'profound social reform in the public interest' may be called the central tradition. Does social reform, then, lie at the heart of decisions to intervene, and provide growth management, as part of a government's responsibility? If the answer is in the affirmative, and it surely ought to be, then we should be able to identify the focus of that attention. For the present purposes an assemblage, omitting Marxist perspectives, has been compiled and depicted in box 1.3 as Connecting philosophy to planning.

The philosophical basis and ethical nub to intervention in conservancy and development comes down to whether practice translates ideals into worthy out-

Box 1.3 Connecting philosophy to planning

There has never been a clear philosophical basis to planning. Different preferences fell into place in different historical contexts over time. A three-component 'traditional' and three-component 'radical' polarity has been selected for this representation, the principal sources being Thomas Harper and Stanley Stein's 'Cen-trality of Normative Ethical Theory to Contemporary Planning Theory' (1992), John Friedmann's Planning in the Public Domain (1987), and John Udy's Typology of Urban and Rural Planners (1991).

Traditional 1 Utilitarian (positivist) theory (consult Smart 1972)

Although remaining in place as the most dominant and readily identified 'philosophical' basis to local development planning throughout the Anglo-influenced world there are many critics and a lesser proportion of defenders of this hedonic style of practice, which sets out to accommodate what landowners, developers and politicians perceive to be good, as good for everybody. Although Utilitarian Theory has its devotees, in community terms it is now viewed by the majority of planning practitioners as reactionary. Yet from Hobbes and Locke to J. S. Mill and Herbert Spencer, those of an empiricist mindset have believed that development policy can be determined and driven according to rules which endorse dollar-style measures of worthiness. This approach still aligns with populist sub-national planning reasoning in peripheral Australasia and North America, on the basis that development outcomes should not be faulted (so the reasoning runs) if an identifiable balance of 'goodness or happiness' is secured. As the twenty-first-century opens out there are few practising defenders of Utilitarian Theory. To my mind there is no great difference in intended outcome between Utilitarian Planning Theory and the popular (imputed to Adam Smith) neo-classicist Libertarian Development Theory, where it is acceptable that individuals simply and directly make what they are conditioned to perceive to be their own choices, solely to optimize what they perceive to be their own wellbeing.

Traditional 2 Negative rights theory (consult Nozick 1974)

Western philosophy 'negative rights' theory identifies with the ultra vires doctrine which delineates the community bounds, up to which individuals may do as they wish with their owned property provided this is within the limits of prescribed laws. Negative Rights Theory is aligned to 'utilitarian theory', the essential difference being that the former attaches to individuals, whilst the latter attaches to community. In upholding these 'natural rights of entitlement' the cut-and-dried Negative Rights hypothesis finds favour with most administrators, the established professions, and a high proportion of physical planning practitioners.

Traditional 3 Communitarian theory (consult Sandel 1982)

This approach nests within the 'traditionalist' pattern on the presumption that policy positions 'should' arise via individual discovery of community attachments, legitimated for each separate community of concern, separately. It exhibits liberal attachments, but in practical outcome comes down to endorsing a systematic pact between profiteering developers and property-enhancing political representatives. A tenuous lineage for the underlying principles, from Plato and Kant, has been identified; the North American perspective of Harper and Stein (1993) being that 'while the communitarian view is often associated with liberal political views, it seems (to them) to have very conservative implications'. In other words, it is 'good' as far as it goes, but it is hardly 'good enough' for modern complex societies larded through with minority, marginalized and non-property-owning subcommunities.

Radical 'A' Conscience-raising theory (Habermas 1979, 1984, 1986)

The Habermasian emphasis on 'communicative action' in association with 'instrumental action' (the Frankfurt School l95l:Adorno and others) is concerned with connecting improved and undistorted communication ('ideal speech') to better social science. This, for planning, means a raising of the level of social conscience for planners, their political mentors, and the participating public. This positions planners, in particular, to operate as both mediators and critics. In the context of the Jungian mantra 'thinking feeling sensing intuiting' to raise the level of participatory conscience (social listening) and to recognize unconscious distortions and mis-communications. A planning (non-philosopher) connection can be traced to the 'advocacy' writings of Davidoff (1965) and Healey (1996).

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