Mind the Widening 'Theory - Practice Gap'? The Retreat to Positivism in Planning Practice

Carol Ludwig*, Olivier John Sykes, Greg Ludwig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This article argues that recent times have seen a (re)intensification of positivist decision making in planning practice in England. Ostensibly underpinned by appeals to scientific evidence and ‘objective’ fact, it seems this is resulting in an increased difficulty in operationalising subjective forms of knowledge. This it is argued has led to a widening theory–practice gap which has serious consequences for participatory democracy. The paper uses planning philosophy (theories of knowledge) as an analytical framework with which to examine these developments from both a theoretical and practice perspective. The latter is supported by insights from public and private sector planners, gathered during semi-structured interviews in 2021. Our findings suggest that a better philosophical understanding of the world within which planning operates can meaningfully inform both theory and practice and help planners to make sense of and navigate the trends described above.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalTown Planning Review
Early online date26 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Dec 2023


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