Patsy Healey, Communicative Rationality and the Role of Planning

 

British planner Patsy Healey offers a step forward in the challenges described by Harvey, and explains the possibilities of the communicative turn in planning asserting that (…):

“from the recognition that we are diverse people living in complex webs of economic and social relations, within which we develop potentially very varied ways of seeing the world, of identifying our interests and values, of reasoning about them, and of thinking about our relations with others. The potential for overt conflict between us is therefore substantial, as is the chance that unwittingly we may trample on each other’s concerns. Faced with such diversity and difference, how then can we come to any agreement over what collectively experienced problems we have and what to do about them? How can we get to share in a process of working out how to coexist in shared spaces? The new wave of ideas focuses on how we get to discuss issues in the public realm.” (Healey, 1996, p.219)

Healey correctly identifies this “new wave of planning” as having the potential to reconstruct the public real and publicness. Healey recognizes the influence of Habermas in this enterprise, by positing that […]

“He [Habermas] shows us that we are not autonomous subjects competitively pursuing our individual preferences, but that our sense of ourselves and of our interests is constituted through our relations with others, through communicative practices. Our ideas about ourselves, our interests, and our values are socially constructed through our communication with others and the collaborative work this involves. If our consciousness is dialogically constructed, surely we are deeply skilled in communicative practices for listening, learning, and understanding each other. Could we not harness these capacities explicitly to the task of discussion in the public realm about issues which collectively concern us?” (Healey, 1996, p.219)

Healey (1996) asserts that ideas of communicative rationality focus on ways of “reconstructing the meaning of a democratic practice”, based on more inclusive practices of “inclusionary argumentation”. For Healey, this is equivalent to a form of …

“…public reasoning which accepts the contributions of all members of a political community and recognises the range of ways they have of know, valuing, and giving meaning. Inclusionary argumentation as a practice thus underpins conceptions of what is being called participatory democracy (Fischer, 1990; Held, 1987) (…).  Through such argumentation, a public realm is generatedthrough which diverse issues and diverse ways of raising issues can be given attention. In such situations, as Habermas argues, the power of the ‘better argument’ confronts and transforms the power of the state and capital”.  (Healey, 1996, p.3) (our emphasis)

There are close connections between Rawls’ theory of justice and Habermas’ communicative rationality.  For Healey, Habermas’ ideas have the potential to reconstruct democratic practice towards more inclusive participatory forms of democracy based on inclusionary argumentation. Inclusionary argumentation (Healey, 1997) implies public reason that accepts the contributions of all members of a political community and recognises the range of ways we have of knowing. As a practice, Healey argues, it has the potential to regenerate the public realm in which diverse issues and diverse ways of raising issues can be given attention. In such situations, Healey argues, the power of the ‘better argument’ confronts and transforms the power of the state and capital (Healey, 1996). We posit that communicative reasoning has the power to create and distribute justice.