Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Ties that Bind: Infrastructure as the Defining Role of Planning

  • Author(s): Mason, Jonathan
  • et al.

Practitioners and theorists have long searched for a clear definition of the role of planning. The attention to the subject is not surprising since a clear role lends any profession’s sense of identity, integrity, and legitimacy. Wildavsky (1973) criticized the planning profession’s lack of clarity in this regard, implying that the profession was attempting to encompass too much. He suggested that if “planning is everything, maybe it is nothing.” This view exemplifies a debate common to many disciplines over what constitutes core theory and practice.

However, such debates are particularly important for inter-disciplinary professions such as planning. This essay argues that, for the planning profession, infrastructure is the organizational backbone around which basic principles, technical methods, professional norms, and even research are expressed. Interpreting its meaning liberally, infrastructure defines the very nature of planning. In turn, infrastructure requires planning, perhaps now more than ever. This symbiotic relationship between planning and infrastructure is unique and helps provide a clarity and focus that allow the profession to be sufficiently comprehensive without losing its meaning and purpose.

Main Content
Current View