Critical Theory, Public Policy, and Planning Practice

By John Forester

Subjects: Public Policy
Series: SUNY series in Political Theory: Contemporary Issues
Paperback : 9780791414460, 230 pages, July 1993
Hardcover : 9780791414453, 230 pages, July 1993

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Table of contents


1. Toward A Critical Pragmatism: The Contemporary Relevance, Promises, and Problems of Critical Theory

2. Understanding Planning Practice: An Empirical, Practical, and Normative Account

3. The Micropolitics of Planning and Policy Practices: Questioning and Organizing Attention

4. Practical Rationality: From Bounded Rationality to the Critique of Ideology in Practice

5. The Geography of Practice and the Terrain of Resistance

6. Challenges of Organization and Mobilization: Examples from Community-Labor Coalitions

7. Toward a Critical Sociology of Public Policy: Probing Policy-shaped Contra-Dictions in the Communicative Infrastructure of Society





Too often attacked as hopelessly abstract, contemporary critical social theory can help us to understand both public policy and its analysis. In this book, John Forester shows how policy analysis, planning, and public administration are thoroughly political communicative practices that subtly and selectively organize public attention. Drawing from Jürgen Habermas's critical communications theory of society, Forester shows how policy developments alter the social infrastructure of society. He provides a clear introduction to critical social theory at the same time that he clarifies the practical and political challenges facing public policy analysts, public managers, and planners working in many fields.

John Forester is Professor of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. His current research focuses on first-person voice and ethnographic accounts of practical and political judgment. Among his other books are Planning in the Face of Power and the edited volume Critical Theory and Public Life.


"Forester's ability to connect theoretical ideas and practical action is unsurpassed among scholars writing in the field of public policy. He reveals a world of thought and action which should always be obvious to us but which we often forget. His is a new, stimulating, and useful approach to public policy that is central to the fields of public policy, planning, politics, and organizational theory. " — Robert A. Beauregard, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh

"I always learn something new or see something in a different light when I read something new by Forester. This book is a logical extension of his prior work. An accurate portrayal of critical theory and an excellent translation into the practice of planning, it shows how planning is fundamentally interpretive and critical. " — Jay D. White, Department of Public Administration, University of Nebraska at Omaha