Introduction: The Structure and Debates of Planning Theory

Susan S. Fainstein, James DeFilippis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript

4 Scopus citations


This introductory chapter defines the boundaries of planning theory and confronts the principal issues that face planners as theorists and practitioners. It establishes a theoretical foundation that provides the field not only with a common structure for scientific inquiry but also with a means for defining what planning is. Planning theory may be either explanatory or normative. Theory allows for both professional and intellectual self-reflection. The chapter addresses what role can planning play in developing the good city and region within the constraints of a capitalist political economy and varying political systems. Planning adapts to changes in the city and region, which in turn are transformed by planning and politics. The teaching of planning theory requires that one should explicitly explore the roots and implications of long-standing disputes in the field. Racial, ethnic, and gender politics have emerged as powerful, transformative, and conflictual forces in urban planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationReadings in Planning Theory
Subtitle of host publicationFourth Edition
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781119084679
ISBN (Print)9781119045069
StatePublished - Jan 5 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


  • Capitalist political economy
  • Planning theory
  • Political systems
  • Urban planning

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