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The Drama of Democracy

The Drama of Democracy: Contention and Dispute in Community Planning

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    The Drama of Democracy
    Book Description:

    The drama of democracy seldom plays out as literally as it does in urban planning disputes. Yet these are complex dramas in which villains aren't clearly identified, protagonists are caught with ulterior motives, and fifth business runs rampant. In this book, Jill Grant aptly uses a dramaturgical metaphor to show how community planning offers illuminating episodes of the workings of democracy.

    Grant argues that planning provides a significant venue for the debate of major questions about how we govern ourselves. She illustrates her theory with two case studies of planning disputes in Halifax. By examining the language and actions of the citizens, planners, and politicians involved in these disputes, Grant explores underlying motives and concerns. Overall, this work has much to say about the nature of cultural obstacles that prevent greater democracy. The author concludes that while democracy is a valued cultural concept, its practice proves weak.

    Much of the work on urban planning takes a socio-economic perspective; the cultural implications of planning are still largely unexplored. By applying a cultural analysis to contemporary case studies, this book takes up the slack, thereby providing a timely addition to existing literature.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7407-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Tables, Maps, Photographs, and Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. PART 1: All the World’s a Stage

    • Introduction: ‘Everyone Loves a Mystery’
      (pp. 3-5)

      What is the nature of democracy in modern industrial societies? The dictionary says that supreme power in a democracy vests in the people. Democratic theory offers two principal models of modern representative democracy: the ‘participatory’ model suggests that the sovereign people can and should participate actively in making decision that affect their lives; the ‘elitist’ model holds that the people lack the skills to rule and should not participate in daily governance. These two models compete for the loyalty of those who talk and write about democracy in modern society. The theorists have varying pronouncements about the meaning of democracy;...

    • Chapter One The Planning Drama
      (pp. 6-19)

      Modern societies face relentless demands for change in urban landscapes. Planning provides mechanisms communities use to manage pressure for new development and to make decisions about preferred options. ‘As part of our publicculture’ (Hodge 1986: 15), community planning generally perpetuates cultural ‘myths’ of progress, rationality, efficiency, expertise, independence, and democracy. We rely on such socially constructed ‘realities’ and ‘myths’ in order to make sense of the jumble of our lives (Home 1986). Community members negotiate the meaning of cultural activities such as planning through their interactions with others. While cultural institutions such as children’s literature and the mass media...

    • Chapter Two Stages, Actors, and Scripts
      (pp. 20-42)

      As actors stage their performances, they make choices about which backdrops, sets, and props to use, based upon the audiences they seek to persuade. To understand why dramas proceed as they do, we peel back the layers of context to see what the actors transact through their performances.

      This chapter explains the metaphors that help us analyse community planning practice. The ‘stages’ are the contexts that frame planning activities. The ‘actors’ participate in the drama. The ‘scripts’ are the messages participants communicate during planning activities. We consider each in turn.

      We use the metaphor of ‘stage’ to explore the contexts...

  6. PART 2: Audience, Take Your Seats

    • Chapter Three Desperately Seeking Development
      (pp. 45-55)

      In the next few chapters we look at a case-study in the drama of planning. We examine planning activities in the City of Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia. Through the voices of actors in the play, we learn about the nature and function of planning in a community and a region desperately seeking development.

      Before we turn to planning disputes in Halifax, we must first consider the larger stages on which the drama plays. As we suggested in Chapter 2, this entails exploring the broad regional and provincial context, for Halifax is the commercial capital of the Maritimes region....

    • Chapter Four Planning Issues in Peninsular Halifax
      (pp. 56-84)

      In this chapter, we briefly review planning issues in Halifax during the postwar period.¹ We examine the way that Halifax planners, politicians, and citizens think about planning and about each other. We begin to sense how the actors play their parts in the planning drama. We pay special attention to actors’ perceptions of each other’s roles and characteristics, and their thoughts about the function and nature of planning. What did they say about their own concerns? What did they see as the interests of others? How did they define the purpose of planning? What did they think about the plan?...

    • Chapter Five Market Place Plaza
      (pp. 85-105)

      In early 1979, a local developer¹ came to city staff with a proposal for a high-rise office development on the corner of Brunswick Street and George Street (see Map 5.1). With its glass sheathing, ‘Time Square’ would reflect the image of the Old Town Clock, which had kept the hour for Haligonians since the nineteenth century. Halifax faced the first major test of its newly adopted Municipal Development Plan. A major dispute ensued.

      City staff argued that the proposed building would strengthen the Central Business District (CBD). As the staff report noted,

      The MDP wishes to encourage mixed use development...

    • Chapter Six Mitchell Property
      (pp. 106-138)

      In the fall of 1986, rumours began to circulate that one of the few remaining estates in the city would soon come on the market for development. Residents of the south end worried that redevelopment would eliminate the unusual ‘Italianate’-style mansion owned by the Mitchell family for over eighty years. A citizen’s letter to the editor indicated the concern: ‘This very beautiful house was built in 1870 ... It qualifies for designation as a heritage property, but this status was refused by its present owner ... In addition to its own architectural value, house is an integral part of the...

  7. PART 3: The Reviews Are In

    • Chapter Seven Staging Planning Activities
      (pp. 141-154)

      The world as it is offers a context within which human action becomes meaningful (Kraushaar 1988). Articulating that context of action helps us understand the problems and nature of planning practice. Analysing the context of planning disputes in Halifax allows us to account for some of the problems that participants identified and for the outcomes that resulted.

      If we had no disputes about the use of land in our communities, we would have little need for planning. Planning activities provide the stage upon which we transact certain cultural meanings and argue about the application of cultural values to our townscapes....

    • Chapter Eight Command Performance
      (pp. 155-175)

      Many groups of actors play parts in the planning drama. Some, such as planners, play active roles: attending hearings, writing reports, meeting with developers. Others, such as a person reading a meeting advertisement in the local paper, may take a relatively passive role as part of the audience. Regardless of the type of parts actors play, they choose a face to present to others. Participants expect actors to create and sustain performances in a consistent fashion. Through interactions with other players in the drama, actors craft their characters and utter lines that reveal their deeply held values. They attempt to...

    • Chapter Nine Scripts and Values
      (pp. 176-196)

      As actors participate in the planning drama, they reveal their values and beliefs through the lines they deliver. Planning disputes have no set script. Instead, actors improvise around particular themes and share elements of a common language: they script their performances as they act. In engaging in planning activities, people transact significant cultural meanings and values that we can retrieve through analysing situations.

      Throughtout this book, we have seen examples of the ways in which values, beliefs, and meanings suffuse planning practice and theory. Interviews with participants in the planning process show that some (but not all) of the participants...

  8. Part 4: Planning in a Democratic Society

    • Chapter Ten Democracy in Myth and Practice
      (pp. 199-209)

      Democracy is acause célbèrein Western society. Everyone supports democracy. In practice, however, we find no consensus on the meaning of the term. Democracy surfaces in our societies as a value-laden contested concept. Most Canadians believe that citizens have the right to participate in making important decisions about the future of their communities, yet community residents often feel powerless to prevent unwanted changes. Although Canadians have unprecedented opportunities to appear before city councils, travelling government commissions, and other official bodies, they have no assurance that their comments will influence those with the power to decide. Governments at all levels...

    • Chapter Eleven Planning Myths and Reality
      (pp. 210-220)

      Throughout this book we have argued that the problems and the prospects of planning make sense only when examined within the matrix of cultural context. Planning occurs within a web of social, political, and economic relations between people. Planning activities, like other cultural activities, allow people to produce and reproduce meanings and places that reflect deeply held cultural values. The interpretive approach we have employed leads us to see planning as providing venues and processes through which actors argue about the values they connect to places, resources, and people. Our central metaphor, the drama, shows that planning constitutes socially constructed...

  9. Appendix: Glossary of Terms and Short Forms
    (pp. 221-224)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 225-234)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-250)
  12. Index
    (pp. 251-252)