"A Beckon to the Makings, Workings and Doings of Human Beings": The Critical Pragmatism of John Forester

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John Forester's important research project of developing a critical pragmatist approach to planning and policy analysis now spans two decades. Common themes that give direction and coherence to his project are, first, a new view of public planning as the restructuring of communication between stakeholders with divergent and conflicting interests and large inequalities in power and influence; second, a redefinition of the role of the planner away from a handmaiden of power to a hands-on professional who fosters inclusive, participatory forms of collective action; and, finally, a deliberate concern with the micropolitics of planning that enables participants to broaden their full potential for democratic transformation within the context of strong, enduring inequalities in agenda-setting and decision-making power. This review traces the roots of Forester's project in pragmatist thought and in particular themes from Emersonian moral philosophy, adding a notion of "critical" to Forester's radical pluralist stance. Forester subscribes to John Dewey's argument for democracy, which inherently requires diversity to arrive at warranted truth. For Forester, the core task of a planner is to safeguard the participation of those normally excluded from decision making by institutionalized inequalities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-298
Number of pages6
JournalPublic Administration Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


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