Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Studies

Physical Description

1 online resource (255 p.)


Social problems, Planning, Social policy




The concern of this dissertation is planning theory and practice; its purpose is to make planning more responsive to the problems of the city. The premise that the study is built on is that social planning must be in harmony with the nature of its subject matter, and that social problems is its subject matter. The supposition is that if we grasp the nature of social problems and build planning theory and practice on these insights, planning efforts will be more relevant and more effective.

The approach is a theoretical one; social problems are the starting point. After urban problems--and poverty in particular--are examined from an historical perspective, a social systems framework is presented to clarify how problems are generated and maintained as well as to explain how responses to problems are shaped. The inquiry into the nature of social problems then draws upon sociological theory. This theoretical literature is found to focus on either the objective elements of social problems or on the subjective, that is, the process by which persons come to judge whether a condition is a social problem. Structural aspects of problems are not an important concern of the theorists.

However, in this study a problem is considered as social only when its causes lie outside of individuals--when the sources or origins can be found in existing structural or institutional arrangements. Problems are conceptualized as having two dimensions: objective and subjective ones.

Social problems--specifically, their objective and subjective dimensions--are related to social planning. It is contended that planning must deal with the objective elements of social problems, including structural aspects, as well as with the subjective dimensions. Or, in other words, social planning must (1) treat the structural causes of problems and also (2) address itself to the values, beliefs, definitions, etc. that obstruct social change.

In addition to this theoretical linkage of social problems and social planning, the dissertation situates planning in the context of a general theory of social reality. Drawing upon the work of Berger and Luckmann (1966), planning is conceptualized as a process in which reality is socially constructed. These theoretical concepts--the objective and subjective dimensions of socia1 problems as the object of social planning and social planning as the social construction of reality-provide the basis for the model which is developed.

Three components of the model are treated. First, characteristics of the process are discussed, and it is contended that the social planning process must be “task-oriented,” "experimental,” “cybernetic,” dialogic, and collaborative. Second, roles and phases in the process are discussed and illustrated. : Consistent with the theoretical framework in which knowledge is considered as socially distributed, citizen, planner, and decision maker have roles in each of the planning phases. Since no one has a complete view of social reality, each is seen as having a distinct contribution to make in the task of defining the problem and its solution. Thus, resolving social problems requires that citizen, planner, and decision maker collaborate and learn from one another. The planner's role is elaborated as the third aspect of the model. By planner is meant an interdisciplinary team whose role encompasses two main functions: (1) technical tasks that have traditionally belonged to the planner, and (2) interactional tasks. Although other planning theorists have outlined interactional tasks for the planner, his role in the collaborative model is “to promote mutual learning through dialog.” This role, similar to that of a process consultant, is considered unique to the collaborative planning model.

Although components of the model resemble those of other models, taken together, the characteristics of the planning process, planning phases, and planning roles differ from any other model. And importantly, the planning model grows out of a theoretical analysis of social problems as well as a broad theoretical framework.

The model is normative in nature, and although it is not tested empirically, it is evaluated at a theoretical level. The collaborative model and seven other planning models are assessed in terms of whether they are responsive to the nature of social problems. It is contended that the collaborative model is the only one that is responsive to the nature of social problems.

This dissertation--its theoretical concepts and conceptual model-is seen as a contribution to an emerging planning paradigm--one that holds the promise that we can learn to deal effectively with the problems that confront our cities.

Persistent Identifier