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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The Berkeley Planning Journal is an annual peer-reviewed journal published by graduate students in the Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP) at the University of California, Berkeley since 1985.

Response to Crisis

Issue cover

Editorial Notes

An Introduction to Volume 16

This issue of the Berkeley Planning Journal is comprised of a lively set of articles that engage with the contemporary moment of socio- spatial restructuring. Planning has always been concerned with the problems and crises of cities and regions, with what Boyer (1987) calls the effort to “dream the rational city.” However, in recent decades, there has been a sense that the nature of the crisis has changed. With the rise of “advanced marginality” (Wacquant 1999), with the “space of flows” opened up by informational technologies (Castells 1998), with the emergence of critical theory as a challenge to standard epistemologies and methodologies (Beauregard 1991), a new world order has provoked planners and planning scholars to ask a different set of questions. Such are the interrogations that shape the contributions to this BPJ issue.

Book Reviews

Review of: American Metropolitics, the New Suburban Reality by Myron Orfield

Myron Orfield is one of the foremost contributors to the new wave of thinking about metropolitan regional planning. Orfield, a Minnesota state legislator, has developed an increasingly sophisticated analysis of spatial growth, economic disparities, demographic change, and politics within U.S. urban areas. In his new book American Metropolitics, he goes well beyond his previous writings to help lay the groundwork for a new generation of metropolitan initiatives.

Review of Water, Culture, & Power: Local Struggles in a Global Context by John Donahue and Barbara Rose Johnston

This book captures the constraints and inevitable trade-offs associated with the intricate combination of politics, economic development, local identity and huge investment in water resources. In a series of essays, the conflicts, players, historical context and effects of water projects on communities throughout the world are described. The case studies are comprehensive, but slightly U.S.-centric. They include cases from South Texas, the Pacific Northwest, the Colorado River, Central Arizona and Tennessee, as well as major projects in Zimbabwe, Mexico, Honduras, and the Middle East.


What Planning Crisis? Reflections on the “Digital Divide” and the Persistence of Unequal Opportunity

This article examines the “digital divide” problem in relation to social and economicdevelopment. Thedigitaldividereferstothedifferencebetween those who are able to and have the opportunity to participate, compete, and prosper in knowledge-based economies and in a society organized around social networks and those who do not. The thesis is that ownership and the ability to use and manipulate the productive function of technology is becoming an important component in the process of production, consumption, and exchange in society. The negative result for those who are unable to create through the process of technology is digital destitution. The alienation suffered may be a result of deprivation and unequal opportunity to experiment and learn how to create and relate to people through the use of technology. The author proposes public policy intervention in the way of creating valuable opportunity to experience and develop the social technical skills necessary to attain and retain gainful employment. The proposal is provision of new Community Technology Development (CTD) programs that support the process of social and economic development at the community level. Giving people the opportunity to experiment the process of production is key to addressing the ongoing process of poverty and inequality.

Welfare Reform in an Era of Economic Downturns

In this paper, I argue that the current version of welfare reform has been motivated by a symbolic movement to restore the U.S. as a land of opportunity. The tacit belief behind this movement is that too many of America’s poor have given up on the American dream. I argue that the 1996 welfare-to-work law is inadequate during periods of economic recession. The devolution of social responsibility to the states, implemented in the midst of an unprecedented expansion left many of America’s most vulnerable groups in peril during the ensuing economic downturn. The next stage of welfare reform will need to address the multifaceted challenges of finding employment for welfare recipients through a sustainable social policy. Such a policy will need to be built upon the understanding that the success of any welfare-to-work law will require both Federal-state partnerships and state-county partnerships.

“The Making of” California’s Energy Crisis

This article examines the origins of the California Energy Crisis through the lens of economic and political theory. The key turning points leading up to deregulation of the State’s energy markets are reviewed. The origins of the crisis are then framed in free market ideology and the garbage can model of political decision-making. Specifically, it is argued that California’s case exemplifies a process of deregulatory capture. A few interest groups used a window of political opportunity to shape the rules governing the process and create new economic opportunities, while shielding themselves from economic risk. These insights regarding the origins of the crisis highlight the need to enrich planning discourse with positive theories of market and polity interaction, and to adopt a more entrepreneurial role for planners during periods of dramatic reform of public infrastructure and services.


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

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.


Recent Publications

Recent Doctoral Dissertations, Master's Theses, Professional Reports, and publications from the Institute of Urban and Regional Development.