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Timescapes, Power and Democracy
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A deep exploration on how questions of time and its organisation affect planning practice, this book is aimed at public and private planning practitioners, national and local politicians and policymakers involved in planning, academics and students studying planning and related disciplines.

It presents time as a pervasive form of power that is used to shape democratic practices, and questions ‘project speed’: where time to think, deliberate and plan has been squeezed. The authors demonstrate the many benefits of slow planning for the key participants, multiple interests and planning system overall.

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The chapter considers the role of time, public interest and deliberative democracy in relation to how planning inputs are organised and managed. In doing so, it considers the wider ‘public interest’ justification for planning to meet a range of present and future needs, and the role of democratic processes and deliberation as a means to enable ‘good’ planning. These are discussed in view of the implications of, and linkages with, time as a resource and the aims of planning, with consideration of the processes and tools available to foster proper time for planning. Care to sustain appropriate deliberative practices is linked to the act of planning itself as a participatory undertaking rather than an adjunct to public engagement, which is often offered under narrow terms and reflects attempts to orchestrate inputs. The challenges to enabling more deliberative approaches are considered in relation to critiques of (post-)democratic citizenship, competing values within increasingly pluralist societies and the unequal operation of power relations. Despite these issues, the case is made that enabling deliberation is an important component of good planning and should form a key part of the normative principles underpinning planning systems.

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The chapter highlights that neoliberal discourses have a particular prominence and influence on political and economic thought and policy in the UK. The thinking behind neoliberal policy places time firmly in view as something to be ‘managed’ in order for ‘efficiency’ to be assured and ‘delay’ minimised. This view stresses that business and service imperatives are promoted in governmental policy generally and through planning policy more specifically. The chapter presents a discussion of planning and the role of time in a neoliberalised policy environment, and outlines the idea of ‘project speed’, cited to focus attention on the political project of reforming planning in the English case. It shows that there have been concerted efforts to orient planning timescapes not necessarily in service of good planning or of supporting democratic accountability but instead to primarily achieve growth. We view the reforms promoted by waves of neoliberalisation and ‘project speed’ over a longer period as attempts to control the present and future. Both the use of political time to service these agendas and the wider temporal politics of growth are questioned as effective long-term strategies in aiding good processes and/or outcomes.

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This chapter provides a deep exposition of time and practice as conceptualised in the wider social sciences. It presents a review of how time has been theorised in social theory, drawing on key thinkers who emphasise the role of time in shaping social and institutional practices across capitalist economic systems, interpersonal power relations and political strategies. In considering this range, the chapter draws on a number of theorists’ work, notably, Pierre Bourdieu, Barbara Adam, Helga Nowotny and Nomi Lazar, whose ideas are presented as key in highlighting the operation of power, political strategy and the relationship of time to practice (and vice versa). This sets out a framework for analysis and provides both an insight and a guide to understanding the multiple temporalities of planning and how timescapes structure practice. By considering the use and organisation of time in organising how planning is practised and who is involved, the recognition that planning itself produces particular futures is brought into view. Key theoretical ideas are used specifically to examine, in later chapters, the way time is organised and deployed as a tool to exert control in the planning system in England.

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This final chapter summarises the main arguments of the book and argues for a more reflective planning and practice that takes time and its implications more seriously. It reflects on planning timescapes as oriented towards neoliberal speed-growth agendas, such as project speed, in order to assist in problematising existing approach(es) to planning. In doings so, the case is made that there is much more at stake than simply whether planning is ‘fast’ or ‘slow’; instead, far greater emphasis is required about what we are planning for and why. A reset of planning systems away from short-term political and business agendas and towards considering longer-term challenges requires a rethinking of normative principles and overall goals, as well as, it follows, a reshaping of the timescape(s) of planning in order to fashion proper time(s). This assemblage should feature the central tenets of inclusion, deliberation and public interest as design principles for planning systems, processes and practices. How time is conceptualised, challenged, managed and practised by different actors with a stake in planning and its outcomes appears critical to just, sustainable futures. It concludes by outlining a research agenda in which understandings of time in and for planning can be further developed to advance practice.

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This introductory chapter provides an initial grounding for the rationale, aims and scope of the book. It also indicates why this topic area should be embraced and absorbed in planning, and how this is useful for providing a deeper understanding of time in practice and the impact of time on practice. The consideration of time in relation to planning is an obvious one: planning is critically concerned with time as an activity in creating plans and policies for the present and future. Yet, beyond such seemingly self-evident claims and understandings of the importance of time, we need to consider the concept much more deeply to appreciate the profound role that time and ‘timescaping’ plays in structuring society, economies and politics, as well as for understanding how temporalisation shapes planning, which in turn shapes the experience of planning. In this respect, time has often been an obscure or uncritically accepted part of discourses shaping planning. This lays the foundations for exploring the contention that time, in its deployment both rhetorically and practically, can have profound impacts on both planning processes and outcomes.

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This chapter describes community-based adult education as a social practice which seeks to address inequalities linked to class, gender and race oppression. Adult education is firmly rooted in traditions of social justice, and the work of community-based adult educators needs to be resourced, celebrated and prioritised as a matter of urgency. It is argued that the community-based adult learning that takes place in community settings is different to other forms of adult education which focus on fixed programmes of learning that are institutionally determined. Through case studies the impact of adult education around the world and in different settings is explored. The ideas of key theorists, such as Paulo Friere and Jack Mezirow, are presented alongside more contemporary thinking about adult education, such as that of Bagnall and Hodge.

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This chapter opens with a practitioner quote emphasising that arts approaches can open doors for people in a transformative way. The authors follow this thread through and build on it with strong images of change for individuals and communities and references to creative and arts-focused interventions. We reflect on activism in communities, stimulated through arts engagement, make the links between community development and culture, arts and health improvement, and harness important writing through our references. Building relationships is highlighted as essential to community work practice in general and is raised in the context of this chapter along with potential challenges of funding and policy realities in the world of community arts. Our case studies reflect international experiences and frequently reference empowerment leading to social change.

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Engagement is at the heart of what the community worker does. It is about working with communities, particularly those most marginalised, to find out what matters to them and then looking to work together to take action. This chapter follows the various stages of engagement from planning, to carrying it out, to making sure that it matters. Although it has a strong practical focus it argues that effective engagement requires a reflection on theory, particularly around power, voice and the valuing of knowledge. Too often, engagement can be tokenistic and part of a hegemonic process in which we consent to our own powerlessness. Community work needs to critically interrogate this process, bearing in mind inclusion, voice and multiple forms of knowledge.

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This chapter focuses on only two approaches to research in the community. These are narrative inquiry and action research, the latter including participatory action research (PAR). These have been selected as they are considered by the authors to be of most use to practitioners, as they are both consistent with the values of community work. Also, in the case of action research, it has a developmental and change focus as well as one of inquiry. People are storytellers by nature, we suggest. Stories provide coherence and continuity to an individual’s experience and have a central role in our communication with others; stories assist us to explore and understand the inner world of the individual and his or her identity. Narrative inquiry looks at the past (the story); the present (how it is framed now) and the future (what this means for future identity and behaviour). It is not the same as interviewing people; rather, it sees people as individual case studies of self-narrative. We know or discover ourselves and reveal ourselves to others by the stories we tell.

Action research is about collaborative and democratic practices, which make it political. It is also about change to the status quo, which is why we propose that it is so relevant to community work. PAR is not just doing research projects as a practitioner. It is more a philosophical stance that enables people to question and improve taken-for-granted ways of thinking and doing.

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