High modernism is a comprehensive “rational engineering” of all aspects of society in order to improve human life. Under the tenets of modernism, these changes could be achieved through unrestrained use of power by the state on a weakened civil society. Most of the great state-sponsored calamities have been the manifestation of such philosophies where the rulers enforced their grandiose and utopian plans. While progressive and utopian visions have the power to impart change, things can go wrong when democratic processes are circumvented. Industrialization resulted in a more diluted version of high modernism characterized by scientific progress. Such scientific processes regarded society as an entity that could be represented by numbers and statistics. There are three major obstacles to high modernism- existence or rather belief in a private sphere of activity in which the state cannot interfere, the private sector, and existence of institutions through which the civil society could influence the processes.
Institutionalization of planning grew out of social problems such as immigration, manufacturing and lack of control over the built environment. Planners sought to build organized and coherent cities through “master planning” schemes. The modernist planning approach was a form of strong state intervention on the primarily capitalist industrial society. This approach was based on strong assumptions such as malleability of reality, ability of knowledge and reasoning to solve all the problems. They employed comprehensive planning processes based on some singular views which disregarded chaos and uncertainty. In the 1980s, economic growth became the primary aim of the state which undermined the comprehensive approach of modernists as they attempted to control capital growth and to preserve order. In contemporary cities, it is problematic to achieve the modernist commitment of conflict-free public interest as cities have become spatially complex with intrinsic incongruities. The modernist approach can be reconstructed by readopting the built environment as an object of study and mediating between capital, labor and the start through political progressivism.
Why allow Planners to do what they do?
Modernist and Post-Modernist philosophies are interpretations of the role of the state in dealing with societal issues. As such, these approaches are more amenable to the question of what planners do rather than why allow them to do what they do. Modernist approach calls for developing a strong, sometimes rigid, ethical base over which planning processes are designed and implemented. Once the fundamental values are clearly defined, the state wields its powers to reshape and redesign social structures. Post-modernism, on the other hand, challenges the deterministic and technical nature of modernism and brings into discourse inherent conflicts and contradictions which cannot be resolved…