"Politics is a widespread activity which occurs in all arenas where human beings are engaged in the production and reproduction of their lives. It involves conflict and cooperation, leading to the raising and resolution of issues through collective decision-making…urban politics is about the making of decisions that protect or undermine citizen well-being in [towns and cities]. These decisions are not necessarily located in towns and cities." --G. Stoker, 1998
City planning and policy-making operate within the arena of local politics. For many years, scholars have sought to understand the dynamics of the political processes underlying agenda-setting and decision-making at the local level, including the key interests involved, how local political representation shapes local politics, and what interest local government itself has in particular planning or policy agendas. In addition, for the last 30 years at least, scholars have documented and debated the role that community mobilization can play in shaping policy and how formal processes for engaging citizens are related to the broader politics of planning. In this course, students will be introduced to the main schools of thought in the field of urban politics and to debates regarding their implications for current planning and policymaking.
We will read classic works in the field and discuss their meaning both in the context in which they were originally presented and for current thinking about the politics of planning. We will consider how well theories help us make sense of current battles over urban plans and policies. Students will be expected to read carefully before class and to lead discussions in class twice during the semester. Other assignments will include a review of the work of an author who was or is formative in thinking about urban politics, and an OpEd and Memo on one of the two recent case studies we will discuss together. Or, you can also propose a term paper on a topic of your choosing in lieu of the OpEd and Memo. Current local issues will also provide us with material for class discussion throughout the semester.