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JOHN DAKIN Inhumanities of Planning Revisited Twenty-five years ago, 'UTQ' published my essay 'Inhumanities of Urban Planning.'l The question probed was whether the contemporary planning ofcities and regions focused on the humane goal ofensuring 'free, varied, and unwasteful life' for the individual citizen, or whether it largely flouted the values of that Western tradition described as 'the humanities.' The essay offered eleven perspectives along which it seemed actual plans - and their implementations could only dubiously be said to be honouring humane values.2 Some of the matters examined along these perspectives, such as the lack of self-criticism from ahumanities viewpoint and poverty ofcontact with the visual arts and literature, were seen as simply deficient. Others were seen as active agents of damage. The subversions included submitting to a narrow technological rationality and overemphasizing utility. Overall, there was felt to bean aggregation ofdangerous tendencies leading to the Ldestruction of humane values ... a serious absence ... of concern for the condition of the human individual as a unique person.' The present essay explores the effects of two revolutions that have occurred since the mid-1960s in the life of the society at large and in the theory and practice of urban planning. In retrospect, the planning atmosphere up to the mid19608 appears now as a tranquil, but over-confident, certitude before two storms that were soon to come in quick succession: first, a rapid shift in thinking and feeling, particularly in the young; and secondly, the acquisition of a great deal of new knowledge about the planet and about ourselves as its most dangerously empowered tenants. I INTRODUCTION The return to exploring the relation between the humanities and urban planning raises certain matters needing brief preliminary attention. First When looking at the two periods, it is inescapable that we are dealing,with considerably different mindsets or mental ambiences. Since 1966 we have sustained certain major impacts, including those from the very rapidly developing telecommunications, computer, and biological technologies; those resulting from acquiring new knowledge about the UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 62, NUMBER 4, SUMMER 1993 INHUMANITIES OF PLANNlNG REVISITED 405 world, with its implications for our survival; and those from some kind of psychological change, as expressed in new social, political, artistic, and religious preferences. In 1966 it was not unreasonable to assume that planning should honour the values of the humanities. This older perspective implied that they enshrined values that made a major contribution to the decisions society -needs for moving into the future. These studies must therefore have traditionally been found survival-effective. When it came to fundamentals , as J.H. Plumb has pointed out, ruling establishments considered science and technology with suspicion, and it is obvious we never have agreed to govern ourselves technocratically.3 Had the humanities and their role in society remained much the same from the mid-1960s to the present, this whole subject would not be of great interest, because the 'old humanities' have indeed come to seem puny when pitted against the massive problems humanity now faces, and when compared with the generally believed ability of science and technology to solve them. Conviction that the humanities are a reliable base for action in society has been waning for a considerable time.4 Second A-case can be made, however, that the humanities have not remained static, and that a broadened or 'new humanities' are already taking shape and claiming their place in the perspective of the survival needs of our species, and its societies. A new values-creating base may be emerging as additional areas of knowledge attach themselves to the 'old humanities.' The additions include some areas dealing with the natural physical world, some concerned with living things, some looking at mental states and conditions, and some handling areas of certain technological studies. Among the mental conditions of change, a new social-politicallinguistic pressure is identifiable. This movement, now associated also with 'political correctness,' may represent a shift from the social sciences into the humanities by radical activist thinking. Because society has to be the instrument (at various levels) for dealing with the global environment , the impact of this direction of change may prove to be a very important part...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 404-440
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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