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From Issue to Form: Public Mobilization and Democratic Enactment in Planning Controversies
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Urban and Regional Studies.
2015 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesisAlternative title
Från fråga till form : offentlig mobilisering och demokratiskt utövande i planeringskontroverser (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

Academics, experts and politicians have come to the conclusion that democracy is in trouble. The contemporary understanding is that new competitive pressures from the outside and unruly publics from the inside have drastically changed the way politics is enacted. Where it was previously provoked by ideological programs it is now engulfed in issues, and where it used to be framed by established democratic institutions it is now characterized by informal governance arrangements. In this environment, it is argued, only the reformed institution can bridge the gap between politics and democracy and restore legitimacy to the decision-making process. In Swedish planning, these reforms have positioned the citizen as the point of departure for democratic politics, manifested in procedural citizen dialogues and in authorities’ relinquishment of political responsibilities. But when unplanned publics do emerge, they are intuitively dismissed as NIMBYs and obstacles to the planning process – preemptively foreclosing opportunities for public democratic enactment.

The aim of this paper is to analyze this process by examining the public controversy surrounding the ongoing redevelopment of Slakthusområdet in southern Stockholm. It draws heavily on Noortje Marres’ work. She suggests that politics pursued outside of established institutions could be occasions for democracy since the activity might indicate that issues are finding sites that are hospitable to their articulation as matters of public concern. However, her issue-focused reasoning also positions the citizen as the focal point for democratic politics, meaning that those who fail to accept this role inevitably have themselves to blame. Her work is therefore supplement­ed with Laurent Thévenot’s understanding of how forms, that is, ideals, rules, and procedures, can be just as important as issues in informing the decisions among actors.

Through interviews with those involved, this paper highlights the ease in which the city disarticulates the attempts at public democratic enactment, a proficiency largely stemming from its “reformed” management form. Moreover, while the public finally managed to settle their issue at stake, it came with the substantial cost of eroded faith in democracy. Drawing on this, the paper concludes that both issues and forms, publics and the public sector, are crucial in facilitating the enactment of democratic politics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. , 86 p.
SoM EX, 2015-25
Keyword [en]
Displacement of politics, post-politics, democratic deficits, public participation, planning controversies, democratic politics, NIMBYism
National Category
Human Geography
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-174352OAI: diva2:859129
Subject / course
Urban and Regional Planning
Educational program
Degree of Master - Sustainable Urban Planning and Design
Available from: 2015-10-21 Created: 2015-10-06 Last updated: 2015-10-21Bibliographically approved

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