17 December, 2021

Planning Conflicts in Plural Democracy

Call for Papers for a Special Issue, in preparation for Raumforschung und Raumordnung | Spatial Research and Planning

Topic and problem formulation

Globalisation, migration, climate change, post-fossil transformation and urban housing shortages are generating new protests and conflicts in plural democracies. Spatial planning is therefore increasingly confronted with the task of conflict management (Othengrafen/Sondermann 2015; Bertram/Altrock 2020): in large-scale projects (e.g. Stuttgart 21, Tesla Berlin-Brandenburg), with the energy transition (e.g. citizens’ initiatives opposing wind farms) or due to development pressure in cities (e.g. Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin). Planning actors face a dilemma in dealing with these conflicts. On the one hand, there are demands to speed up approval procedures, also in order to achieve widely accepted and public-welfare goals such as climate protection, the energy transition and housing construction. On the other hand, expectations concerning public participation are increasing. At the same time, there are demands for a fundamental rethink of classic types of citizen participation. “More participation”, direct democracy initiatives or referendum decisions often do not lead to the de-escalation of conflicts in plural democracies, but can rather exacerbate them and deepen divisions (Selle 2019). Finally, there is the risk of participation activities being dominated by populist actors. 
    A new balance between conflict and consensus may have to be found, in spatial planning as elsewhere. In international planning theory, the increased relevance of conflict has been addressed by approaches of agonistic planning (Gualini 2015; Pløger 2018). Drawing on the work of the political researcher Chantal Mouffe, these approaches view conflicts in pluralistic democracies as immanent and positive, and distance themselves from the consensus-oriented approaches of communicative planning theory (Bäcklund/Mäntysalo 2010). The suggestion is that it is important to transform antagonistic struggles between enemies into agonistic confrontations between opponents and to establish a “conflictual consensus”. An important prerequisite for the defusing of antagonistic conflicts is that the opponents accept the rules of conflict resolution.
    However, such understandings of planning do not fit with current practice, which seems to be increasingly characterised by strategies of post-politics or post-democracy (see Mössner 2016). Furthermore, agonistic approaches have not yet addressed how planning can deal with conflicts in practice in a concrete or productive way in order to achieve robust decision-making and thus strengthen pluralistic democracy. In Germany to date, agonistic planning approaches have hardly been taken up. There has also been little reflection in planning research on how effective planning approaches to conflict moderation and mediation (Diller 1996) have actually been in the past.

Objectives and key questions

The Special Issue seeks theoretical/conceptual and empirical practice-related papers that analyse and critically reflect on how spatial planning deals with conflicts. In addition to papers from planning research, contributions from political science or related disciplines are particularly welcome. The papers may be in German or English and can refer to local, regional or national planning levels in Germany and Europe. The aim is to include a mixture of national and international contributions in the Special Issue. The focus is intended to be on, but not limited to, the following key questions:

1. What experience has been gained so far in dealing with which conflicts in spatial planning?
2. What role has spatial planning played in dealing with conflicts (e.g. avoidance, moderation/mediation, negotiation)?
3. When and under which conditions has planning successfully tackled conflicts? When was this not the case and why?
4. To what extent do participatory processes in planning procedures transform antagonistic conflicts into agonistic ones?
5. Under what conditions can spatial planning contribute to conflict resolution in pluralistic democracy?

Just for illustration:
One of the constituting planning conflicts in Western Germany arose in the late 1970s / early 1980s concerning the expansion of Rhein-Main Airport in Frankfurt a.Main.
Image courtesy of Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. [1]. Taken from an altitude of 383 km (207 nautical miles). Crop of an image from the series ISS006-E-52451 through ISS006-E-52454.

The building of the "Startbahn 18 West" caused massive, even violent citizens' protests and was subject to substantial political controversy at all levels of government.
Image: concrete fence protecting the construction of the Runway West. Courtesy Rainer Momann, http://www.momann.com.

Quality assurance

Call for Abstracts: Using an open Call for Abstracts, interested authors are asked to send a draft abstract of 150 to 250 words to the guest editors to ensure a thematic fit with the Special Issue in advance. In addition, the guest editors will contact recognised experts in Germany and abroad directly. 
Abstracts are due 31 January 2022
    Call for Papers: Authors of suitable abstracts will be invited to submit a manuscript. Manuscripts can be written in German or English and submitted as a “Beitrag / Article” or “Politik- und Praxis-Perspektive / Policy and practice perspective”. Submitted manuscripts should be prepared according to the journal’s Instructions for Authors (https://rur.oekom.de/index.php/rur/Authors).
    Double-blind peer review: As usual, all manuscripts will be subjected to an anonymous review process and will only be accepted on the basis of positive reviews. 

For subject-related queries, please contact the guest editors: Dr Manfred Kühn (manfred.kuehn@leibniz-irs.de) and Prof. Dr Markus Hesse (markus.hesse@uni.lu). For organisational queries, please contact the Editor-in-Chief Prof. Dr Andreas Klee (klee@arl-net.de).


Bäcklund, P.; Mäntysalo, R. (2010): Agonism and institutional ambiguity: Ideas on democracy and the role of participation in the development of planning theory and practice – the case of Finland. In: Planning Theory 9, 4, 333–350. https://doi.org/10.1177/1473095210373684
Bertram, G.F.; Altrock, U. (2020): Auf dem Weg zur Normalität: Planungsbezogener Protest und planerische Reaktionen. In: Raumforschung und Raumordnung | Spatial Research and Planning 78, 2, 185–201. https://doi.org/10.2478/rara-2019-0059 
Diller, C. (1996): Die Regionalplanung als Mediatorin einer nachhaltigen Entwicklung. In: Raumforschung und Raumordnung 54, 4, 228–234.
Gualini, E. (ed.) (2015): Planning and Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Contentious Urban Developments. London.
Mössner, S. (2016): Sustainable urban development as consensual practice: Post-politics in Freiburg, Germany. In: Regional Studies 50, 6, 971–982. https://doi.org/10.1080/00343404.2015.1102875
Othengrafen, F.; Sondermann, M. (eds.) (2015): Städtische Planungskulturen im Spiegel von Konflikten, Protesten und Initiativen Berlin. = Planungsrundschau 23. 
Pløger, J. (2018): Conflict and Agonism. In: Gunder, M.; Madanipour, A.; Watson, V. (Hrsg.): The Routledge Handbook of Planning Theory. London, 264–275.
Selle, K. (2019): Öffentlichkeitsbeteiligung in der Stadtentwicklung. Anstiftungen zur Revision. Berlin. = vhw-Schriftenreihe 15.