Participation, Urbanism, and Urban Studies

Democracy and Participation: A Review of Existing Knowledge
Four Decades of Debates and Experience since “A Ladder of Citizen Participation” by S. R. Arnstein
By Marie-Hélène Bacqué, Mario Gauthier

More than four decades after the publication of S. R. Arntein’s seminal paper, “A ladder of citizen participation”, the authors offer a critical review of research pertaining to public participation in urban planning and urban studies in a North American and European context. After delineating the fields of urban planning and urban studies, they recount how participation has emerged in this field of practice in opposition to the model of rational comprehensive planning. A particular interest is brought to collaborative approaches in urban planning and urban studies, strongly inspired by the communicative and deliberative currents, and to the debates that have accompanied their diffusion. The authors then come back on some concrete participative practices and on their analyses in order to establish a review of current research and questions that they raise. In conclusion, the authors discuss the thesis of the emergence of a post-collaborative period in research and debates on participation that tend to transcend the traditional opposition between “idealistic” and “ultra-critical” perspectives in order to instead adopt a “pragmatic” and “empirical” perspective to analyse and compare the processes and participatory mechanisms in urban planning.


  • collaborative planning
  • participation
  • urban planning
  • urban studies
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