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Tieto/valta kaupunkikehityksessä

Hankkeen vastuullinen johtaja

Professori Kimmo Lapintie
Arkkitehtuurin laitos, TKK


Professori Mari Vaattovaara
Maantieteen laitos, Helsingin yliopisto

Jarre Parkatti
Arkkitehtuurin laitos, TKK

FT Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen
Maantieteen laitos, Helsingin yliopisto


1.1.2007 - 31.12.2010.
Tutkimushanke rahoitetaan ja toteutetaan osana Suomen Akatemian Valta Suomessa -tutkimusohjelmaa.


Tutkimushankkeessa tarkastellaan empiirisesti tiedon ja asiantuntemuksen muotoja kaupunkikehityksessä, pitäen sisällään mm. kaupunkisuunnittelun, yhdyskuntasuunnittelun, kaupunkipolitiikan, hallinnon ja oikeudellisen argumentoinnin. Tiedon hankintaa ja rakentamista tutkitaan kolmella tasolla: yksittäisten kaupunkisuunnitteluhankkeiden, kaupunkitason kehittämisen ja politiikan sekä metropolialueen suunnittelun ja kehittämisen tasoilla. Tutkimuksen teoreettinen viitekehys perustuu Foucault'n tieto/valta-käsitteeseen, jota on sovellettu suunnitteluteoriaan ja yleisemmin kaupunkipolitiikan tutkimukseen. Projekti edustaa samalla Flyvbjergin tunnetuksi tekemän rationaalisuus-valta-dikotomian kritiikkiä. Tutkimuksessa sovelletaan useita rinnakkaisia menetelmiä, kuten kontekstualisoitua diskurssianalyysia, argumentaatioanalyysia ja episteemistä analyysia aineistoihin, joihin kuuluvat suunnittelu- ja politiikkadokumentit, haastattelut sekä kaupunkikehityksen kvantitatiiviset taustatiedot.


Professori Kimmo Lapintie (etunimi.sukunimi@tkk.fi) , Puh. +358-50-5842710, PL 1300, 02015 TKK


1. Research Context

Knowledge and Urban Development

Urban development is one of the key areas where the processes of globalization and European
integration have become visible, not only in the continuing urbanization and the development of
multi-centered urban regions, but also in the new role that cities and their regions have been
forced to adopt. Urban development has become more active, based on conscious strategies and
development programmes, at the same time as the context of their policies is considered to be
more complicated and unstable, dominated by global economic and cultural forces. Moreover,
the demands of civil society and sustainability have put more pressure on the legitimacy and
justification of urban policies.

In social and political sciences, as well as in planning theories addressing urban development in
the contemporary society, the Foucaultian perspective of power/knowledge that sees power
inherently connected to knowledge production and forms of expertise, is nowadays taken to be
more promising than the corresponding perspectives emphasizing the dichotomy between
rationality and power. In planning theory, the critique by Bent Flyvbjerg against the
Habermasian communicative rationality has paved the way for the Foucaultian immanent
perspective, but there are as yet very few attempts to empirically analyze power and knowledge
in urban policies, planning and design - not even in Flyvbjerg's own research, which is still based on the dichotomy between rationality and power (Flyvbjerg 1998). In Finland, this type of empirical research is virtually nonexistent, our image as an advanced information society notwithstanding.

But if we did take seriously the perspective opened by Flyvbjerg’s (and originally Nietzsche’s and Foucault’s) critique and attempt to give a theoretical description of what actually goes on in urban development – not the mummy-like description of idealized and Utopian thinkers, but a historical understanding of the urban practice - this would clearly mean that we concentrate not only on the contextual power sources of this practice, but also on the social positions reflected in and constructed by knowledge and expertise, its historical and local existence and potency. This is the theme that Flyvbjerg systematically avoided in Rationality and Power, to the extent that he seemed to assume a kind of ‘supreme rationality’ only within reach of the planner (Lapintie 2002, p. 38). In a Nietzschean perspective, this morally supreme rationality should be replaced by an immanent rationality directly bound with the social position of the experts in relation to other stakeholders.

An individual expert would, however, hardly be able to influence urban or regional development by virtue of his knowledge or experience alone, no matter how distinguished it might be. This influence is only actualised through his or her profession. It is thus necessary to study the role of the different professions in the national and local settings if we want to understand the way that expertise is formed and used. As Terence Johnson has remarked, the profession is not only an occupation, it is a form of professional control (Johnson 1981, 44-47). The profession has to be able to exclude other experts than its members from the relevant commissions, and this exclusion needs specific criteria (Konttinen 1991, 14). These criteria are usually related to professional education and experience, but it is not self-evident which type of knowledge will be considered relevant for a particular commission. This is very much based on the strategic success of the professional organisations: The type of expertise that the profession represents has to be legitimised as central, at the same time as other types of expertise are deemed marginal. This legitimisation is usually gained in historically important turning points in society.

Urban development is obviously based on knowledge, mediated by professional experts (researchers, practitioners), the media, and by different stakeholders lobbying their cause. But what kind of knowledge is actually used, and is there knowledge that is systematically avoided? What is the role of different experts and their relationship to the decision makers? How are questions formulated, and how is data gathered and knowledge constructed? How is it mediated - or not mediated - to different stakeholders? What kind of expertise (economic, ecological, social, architectural, historical, technical) is considered relevant to particular circumstances?
How is it related to professional education?
These questions have to be addressed through intensive empirical research (case-studies representing typical circumstances and different contexts, comparative research showing the differences of the Finnish context as compared to European and non-European countries) and theoretical analysis, ranging from epistemological understanding (e.g. the role of explicit and personal knowledge) to the sociology of knowledge (in particular the role of different professions dealing with urban development, and the role of citizens in the local power struggles).

The Role of Planning Expertise

The reflective understanding of the role of the planning practitioner - as one of the key figures in urban knowledge production - has been in turmoil over the last decades – an in a sense even longer. One may even say that the 20th Century discussion in planning theory, extending from physical or architectural emphasis in the early years of the century to the rational and procedural reorientation in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and over to the so-called communicative turn in the 1980’s and 1990’s, has been preoccupied with the kind of knowledge and expertise needed for planning. According to the famous classification by Nigel Taylor (1998), planning theory has gone through two major paradigm shifts during the post-WW2 period, one from physical planning to systems thinking, and the other from scientific expertise to communicative planning. This is a simplification, of course, since Taylor did not consider the local or national characteristics of planning practice, which have varied considerably even in the Western European countries, to say nothing of the differences between, for instance, the Western Europe and the former Soviet and socialist countries, the United States, and Asian countries. Globalisation has implied a growing interest in comparing the different planning systems, and thus we should avoid too hasty generalisations.

However, it is fair to say that most of the local planning cultures have met challenges related to planning expertise. Traditional aesthetic expertise has been questioned in terms of social scientific, management, or ecological expertise, depending on the problems and issues that have become urgent. There has been an ongoing professional competition around planning: Who is allowed to define the essential issues of urban and regional development, and on which terms? In this debate, even such key concepts as ‘the environment’ have remained open, to be defined and redefined by the experts in position – or those reaching for a position in planning. The communicative turn in planning has added a new dimension to this dilemma. Informed, for instance, by the constructivist and relativist tendencies in social sciences and in philosophy, the very role of social expertise has been questioned. Is there really a possibility for any kind of expertise – be that architectural, ecological, or social scientific – to ‘represent’ the interests or values of the citizens? The basic assumption of the rational planning tradition, that the political and social dimension of planning could be taken care of by the politically determined objectives of planning, is no longer an available option. We already understand that the way these objectives are followed – even the detailed features of the actual physical or spatial plan – are no less political or socially meaningful for the people who in the end physically meet the resulting built environment. Thus the planning practitioner with his or her professional educational background and experience faces each time the basic challenge of legitimation: on what grounds does he or she claim authority over the environment of other people. Planners’ legitimacy in the ever more complex field of planning is a central question needing to be addressed if urban planning is to be practiced by the public sector in the future. Scott Campbell (1996) has elaborated an interesting conflict triangle, depicting most common conflicts in planning that can help to reflect planners’ role and position in planning. His idea is that by accepting the social constructionist view of nature, which is often the basic assumption behind the communicative interpretations of planning, the planner is able to see the inherent conflicts in urban planning from a new angle, which will enable the planner to claim professional legitimacy in planning a sustainable city. In Campbell’s thoughts planners should be able to position themselves in the planning triangle of conflicting goals. This triangle is formed of three conflicts: the property conflict (economic growth vs. social equity), the resource conflict (economic growth vs. environmental quality) and the development conflict (social equity vs. environmental quality). Through explicit positioning of oneself on this triangle the planners are able to claim and gain legitimacy needed to act as a negotiator between different conflicting views, but also to act as an interpreter between different ways of knowing among different stakeholders in planning.

The communicative turn is in a way an attempt to answer to this dilemma: instead of an expertise based on ‘objective’ knowledge, the planning practice should be based on process management and communicative skills. If the different stakeholders are allowed to participate in the planning process, they will also commit themselves to the strategy and the solutions that will be followed in the plan. In order for this to happen, the experts will have to give up their professional jargon and also adopt new communicative tools in planning, thus avoiding the ‘crowding out’ of alternative ways of understanding and talking about the environment. Since the citizens will hardly allow only apparent involvement, they will also have to be allowed to influence the planning solutions.

The most common reference in this context has naturally been Jürgen Habermas and his theory of communicative action. On the face of it, it really seems like Habermas could give the necessary theoretical foundation for communicative planning: Instead of the instrumental means-ends rationality of rational planning, planning should strive for communicative rationality, that is, harmonizing social action based on a common situation definition (Habermas 1984, 286). However, one will soon notice that if Habermas would really be taken seriously in planning theory, a lot of theorising would be needed to make his concepts applicable to planning. For Habermas, namely, communicative action is an option available for members of the same life-world, whereas the bureaucratic and economic systems are pervaded by successoriented action, constantly threatening to colonize the life-world of immediate social relations. Thus in order to apply Habermas one would first need to show that planning, which is clearly part of the system (the system of controlling land use and the real estate market), could somehow be understood also as a stage for communicative action. The communicative turn in planning would thus be a sort of mixture of the system and the life-world, where the life-world would start (at least in planning) colonizing the system.

Since planning deals with major economic assets and is related to the governance of peoples use of land and the resulting environmental, e.g. health effects, it is evident that planning is usually characterized by “reciprocal influencing on one another by opponents acting in a purposiverational manner.” This follows merely from the fact that many of the stakeholders in the planning process are not individuals but firms and other organisations competing with each other on the open market. Thus it is rather surprising that few planning theorists referring to Habermas have tried to solve this dilemma, by addressing the specificity of planning as a social activity with the Habermasian vocabulary. What is more often seen is an attempt to describe planning as part of the life-world, as a kind of everyday activity of the stakeholders. For instance, as Sager (1998, p. 7), pointing out the importance of dialogue, writes that “[d]ialogue, close ego-confirming relationships, and the experience of being able to make a difference when issues are discussed (democracy) are important to the development of mature personalities. Hence they have intrinsic value independent of any goal-oriented strategy,” he is certainly right, but it remains unclear whether this type of human growth is relevant to planning. Participating in municipal planning is hardly an essential part of “ego-confirming” relationships for most individual people, and for those who participate in a professional manner (e.g. the developers or the leaders of NGOs) planning is perhaps closer to strategic action to defend certain interest than a way of “existing” in society (Lapintie 2002). However, Sager is certainly right in maintaining that this basic need is essential for adult citizens, and if they cannot satisfy this need in their principal social networks, planning will certainly meet this urge to “make a difference.”

The rationality of power, and the power of rationality

Even if we pass the question whether the Habermasian concept of communicative action is applicable even in the immediate life-world situation, it is certainly Utopian in the context of ordinary urban governance. Utopian visions have not been uncommon in the history of the city, but they have always been problematic because of their self-confirming nature. If we start with a Utopian-normative description of what urban development ideally should be like, and this is then projected on the everyday reality of practice, the result is often self-evident: reality does not correspond to the ideal, and the suggestion by the theorist is that it should be made more close to it. If open and inclusive communication is not carried out, for instance, then we suggest that it would be nice if it would (Rajanti 2003). This type of research will hardly help either the practitioner or the other stakeholders in their daily work.

One of the well-known critiques of this sort was put forward by Bent Flyvbjerg in his book “Rationality and Power” (Flyvbjerg 1998). He wanted to show, by analysing in detail the workings of the local power regime in the city of Aalborg, that the rationality represented by the planning agency could not resist the traditional power centres, such as the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the local newspaper with their Conservative political allies. The results were hardly surprising for anybody who had actually worked in planning practice, but his slogans, such as “rationality yielded to power” and “the more power, the less rationality” succeeded in starting an ongoing debate in planning theory about the role of power in the planning process. Have we failed to address the most essential driving forces of planning with our Utopian attitude in planning theory? Why should we discuss inclusive communication in planning, if the most important stakeholders have no interest in communicating? If a political decision is secretly made, only arguments supporting it will be accepted. Thus the situation is very seldom really open-ended, which is the basic requirement for communicative planning.

Flyvbjerg’s theoretical intentions were, however, more ambitious than merely pointing out this common situation. He wanted to question the whole tradition of the Enlightenment, Habermas included, and replace it with the alternative tradition from Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and Foucault. The basic motivation for this shift was the need to study planning as it is actually practiced, as real history and rationality, and not the idealized Utopias of the Enlightenment. By suggesting these authors, Flyvbjerg did indeed open a perspective that has not been widely used in spite of the vast literature that has already been produced around these post-modernist, post-structuralist, and Nietzschean discourses. However, this new realm of thought also had implications that partly undermined his original attempt to describe a case where “rationality yielded to power.” In Foucault’s vocabulary, for instance, this sort of conclusion does not make any sense, since power and rationality are indistinguishable: all forms of power have their own rationality and knowledge, and rationality cannot exist outside of the historical immanence of power. But if this perspective of power/knowledge is used, we simply have one power/knowledge yielding to another power/knowledge – not a very surprising or provocative conclusion. Not surprisingly, then, Flyvbjerg did not make far-reaching conclusions from his theoretical foundations, but he rather satisfied himself with the minutiae of his case – which is why his study has been of great value to planning researchers as an important source of empirical material. In his later book, Flyvbjerg even went so far as to deny the relevance of theory altogether in research based on case studies (Flyvbjerg 2001, p. 86)

Our ambition in this project is to do our part in answering to the challenge opened but not fulfilled by Flyvbjerg. We shall, however, not be content in describing our cases but use them in order to construct a theoretical understanding of how power/knowledge is actually used in urban development.

2. Research Objectives and Methods

The objective of this project is to get a basic understanding of how power/knowledge operates at three scales of urban development:
(i) The scale of urban planning and design. We shall study the planning process from political objectives and sketching to the judgments of the Supreme Administrative Court, by following cases that represent the contemporary planning practice and legislation. We shall find out how knowledge is constructed in different stages of the process, and what kinds of arguments are used. The analysis will cover both description and normative assessment, by using elements from epistemology, sociology of knowledge, and argumentation theory. We shall also study the early stages of an urban design project (Helsinki Western Harbour) in more detail.
(ii) The scale of urban politics and strategies of cities.
(iii) The scale of a metropolitan region. We shall study the strategies of the Helsinki metropolitan region and compare it to chosen European and the Saint Petersburg metropolitan regions.
Our objective is, naturally, not to study all of the relevant issues related to power and urban development in these cases, but rather to find out
(1) whether there is a systematic praxis in the construction of power through knowledge in these different contexts, or is it rather characterized by fragmentation, chance, and tactical manoevres,
(2) how do the different experts (scientists, planners, designers, etc.) participate in the construction of urban knowledge, and how much of this knowledge production is locally based or dependent on international connections (global research, best practices, etc.), and do the experts claim objectivity or explicitly position themselves as advocates of certain interest groups or worldviews (position in the conflict triangle),
(3) how are different epistemological conditions and types of knowledge and argumentation (explicit scientific knowledge, GIS-analysis, disseminated experience, personal knowledge, rhetoric and argumentation, etc.) formed in the context of urban development, both in expert and lay discourses, and
(4) how is knowledge used (or not used) by politicians, developers, landowners, and individual citizens and citizen groups in pursuing their interests (and also in constructing their politically legitimate interests).
Since the production of knowledge/power is immanent and based on individual and changing strategies and tactics, the analysis must be in-depth, based on a variety of data from planning and policy documents, interviews, media coverage, and non-published material. The cases that have been provisionally chosen will represent different scales and different fields of urban development, but if the results will show it reasonable, some changes and additions will be done.
The analysis of the empirical data will also use a variety of theoretical and analytical tools, including epistemic analysis, discourse analysis, and argumentation analysis and assessment. The analysis will be contextual, however; we shall not assume that power relations would be in a flux or totally determined by struggles through discourse, but we rather assume that there are rather stable relationships and practices that are clearly related to material conditions. But in what way, and what are the degrees of freedom for different stakeholders? This issue will require a sociological and political analysis of the local conditions of urban change.

3. Researchers and Resources

The project is led by professor Kimmo Lapintie (TKK). Other senior researchers participating in the plan are professor Mari Vaattovaara (HY), professor Peter Ache (TKK), and Dr.Sc (arch.) Aija Staffans. Researchers employed in the project are Dr. Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen and Jarre Parkatti as PhD student. The project will also support many other PhD students currently working with their theses.

The project is also related to other projects in our network dealing with both knowledge and urban development. Professor Kimmo Lapintie has led an Academy funded project 'Governing Life', as well as the EU-funded project GREENSCOM on governance in planning. He has recently worked on a theory of space that would enable a more elaborate connection of space with different modalities (in particular epistemic, such as knowledge and belief). This one year project ended 2007 and was funded by the Academy of Finland. Professor Mari Vaattovaara has been studying the assumptions behind local policies in the globalizing context, as compared to international experience and research results. Her projects include: BETWIXT – Between Integration and Exclusion: a Comparative Study in Local Dynamics of Precarity and Resistance to Exclusion in Urban Contexts. Social inequality and spatial segregation in seven European cities. The project is financed by the European Commission DG XII, TSER programme. The study is conducted by researchers from all seven member countries. In addition to the responsibilities in the Finnish part of the study, Prof. Vaattovaara has had key responsibilities in quantitative data collection and analysis of the project with John Flatley (London Research Institute). She also carried the responsibility for the GIS applications in this project. (1998 – 2001). SYREENI - Research program of the Academy of Finland on marginalization, inequality and ethnic relations in Finland (SYREENI) Finnish Slum? On the spatial accumulation of deprivation and ethnic minorities (2000 - 2003). Mari Vaattovaara acted as a responsible researcher together with Matti Kortteinen. URBS - Research program of the Academy of Finland on urban studies (1998- 2001). Mari Vaattovaara acted as a responsible researcher on the part that focused on the developments within the metropolitan area of Helsinki.

Dr Aija Staffans from the Laboratory of Urban Planning and Design published her thesis on local knowledge and urban design in 2004, and she is currently managing a new project OPUS on learning in urban planning and design. PhD student Heli Rantanen is working on her thesis on local knowledge and the internet in the same project, funded by Tekes (the National Fund for Technology Research). M.Sc. Sari Puustinen (TKK) published her thesis on the sociology of the planning profession in 2006, which is directly related to this project. Assistant professor and PhD student Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen finished his thesis on sustainable development planning and planning discourses in Northwest Russia in 2007.

The participating institutions have already formed a functioning partnership between different university institutions and existing projects and PhD schools, and this will be extended. The institutions that will cooperate in this project include the Laboratory of Urban Planning and Design (Helsinki University of Technology TKK) and the Institute of Geography (The University of Helsinki, HY). The project team will work in close cooperation with the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council (YTV), Uusimaa Regional Council, the Centre of Urban and Regional Studies and the Department of Sociology at the University of Tampere (through our common PhD School) and the cities of Helsinki, Vaasa, and Lappeenranta. The research training program that has been carried out since 1999 is based on a committed cooperation with both domestic and international network of experts. The consortium has led a PhD school on urban studies and urban planning in 1999-2002 and has now started a new PhD school on housing in change (2006-2009). Common classes on methodology and tutoring, as well as intensive seminars, are organized regularly. Five PhD theses have been completed during this period. As a token of its success, The Laboratory of Urban Planning and Design has been nominated as one of the twenty 'university institutions of excellence' in Finland for the years 2007-2009. According to the assessment by the Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council, research and education of the laboratory are integrated at all levels of education. The project will be part of an international COST Action C20 on 'Urban Knowledge Arena'. The Action forms a network of scholars around Europe working with similar projects, meeting regularly and forming working groups addressing different issues of urban knowledge. The Action does not fund research but the necessary networking. This Action will make it easier for researchers and students to compare their results and cases to those of others, and it will also make it easier to test and disseminate results. Professor Mari Vaattovaara and professor Matti Kortteinen are the Finnish representatives of the management committee of the Action, and professor Kimmo Lapintie and Research Director Harry Schulman from Helsinki City Facts are members of working groups.

4. Relation to the Research Programme on Power in Finland

The Finnish society has a strong tradition in Welfare State policies and a rather homogenous urban culture, both of which have recently been challenged by globalization, growing inequalities, multiculturalism, and the diminishing role of the State and the new and more active role of cities and regions in the integrated, polycentric Europe. Correspondingly, the taken-forgranted urban policies and practices, as well as their traditional knowledge-base, is increasingly being questioned.

In addition to comparing Finnish planning practices to European we find it relevant to compare them to the Russian experience. Through European cases we are able to trace the Western roots of knowledge used by different professions in the field of planning. By choosing Saint Petersburg as a comparative case study area we will also find out if there is affinity in planning rationalities, argumentation and used knowledge between Finnish and Russian cases, since Soviet planning rationalities and methods have been influential in the Finnish context during past decades.

This project will be related to many of the thematic issues opened by the Memorandum of the Programme. The issue of knowledge in urban development is related to the role of citizens and civil society, the role of the media, the changing role of the state in urban development, and the effects of the international and global challenges, as well as of European integration.

5. Results and Dissemination

The project will give a first overview and detailed case study results on how knowledge is used and constructed in urban development. It will also contribute to the international scientific discussion in knowledge management, planning theory, and political science. The results are directly applicable in developing planning and design education, knowledge production and participation in planning practice and urban policies. The partnership is actively involved in undergraduate, post-graduate and PhD education, as well as practical development of cities in Finland through consultancy, and there are thus a variety of means for the dissemination of results.


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    Association, Vol. 62, n:o 3, pp. 296-312.
  • Flyvbjerg, Bent (1998) Rationality and Power. Democracy in Practice. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Flyvbjerg, Bent (2001) Making Social Science Matter. Why social inquiry fails and how it can succeed again. Translated by Stephen Sampson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Foucault, Michel (2000) Power. Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984, edited by James D. Faubion. New York: The New York Press.
  • Habermas, Jürgen (1984) The Theory of Communicative Action. Volume One: Reason and the Rationalization of Society. Boston: Beacon Press.
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  • Lapintie, Kimmo (2002) Rationality Revisited. From Human Growth to Productive Power. Nordisk Arkitekturforskning – Nordic Journal of Architectural Research, Vol. 15, n:o 1, pp. 29-40.
  • Lapintie, Kimmo & Puustinen, Sari (forthcoming) Towards a Reflexive Planner: the Planning Profession and the Communicative Challenge.
  • Nietzsche, Friedrich (1978) Twilight of the Idols (1889), in Twilight of the Idols and The Anti- Christ. Aylesbury: Penguin Books.
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