Phronetic planning research: theoretical and methodological reflections

Bent Flyvbjerg
2004 Planning Theory & Practice  
This article presents the theoretical and methodological considerations behind a research method which the author calls 'phronetic planning research'. Such research sets out to answer four questions of power and values for specific instances of planning: (1) Where are we going with planning? (2) Who gains and who loses, and by which mechanisms of power? (3) Is this development desirable? (4) What, if anything, should we do about it? A central task of phronetic planning research is to provide
more » ... ch is to provide concrete examples and detailed narratives of the ways in which power and values work in planning and with what consequences to whom, and to suggest how relations of power and values could be changed to work with other consequences. Insofar as planning situations become clear, they are clarified by detailed stories of who is doing what to whom. Clarifications of that kind are a principal concern for phronetic planning research and provide the main link to praxis. The way to re-enchant the world ... is to stick to the concrete. (Richard Rorty) Letting Rationalism Go An earlier article discussed what was called 'phronetic planning research' and offered an example of how this method may be employed in practice (Flyvbjerg, 2002) . It is a basic tenet of phronetic planning research that practical examples are typically more effective vehicles of communication than are discussions of theory and methodology. Consequently, it was found to be appropriate to first depict phronetic planning research by way of an example. Needless to say, that does not leave theory and methodology unimportant, and this article will argue the case for phronetic planning research from the perspective of its theoretical and methodological underpinnings. The old joke that methodology, like sex, is better demonstrated than discussed, applies here as elsewhere. The author is well aware of the paradox that the article will be arguing theoretically for a methodology that emphasizes practice. Readers who are unwilling to accept this paradox and want to see practical examples up front should refer to Flyvbjerg (1998b Flyvbjerg ( , 2002 , which demonstrates the methodology in action. However, for researchers who are considering undertaking phronetic planning research, the thoughts below may be useful, not as methodological imperatives, but as possible indicators of direction. In any case, these are the reflections on theory and methodology
doi:10.1080/1464935042000250195 fatcat:q2kiojtufndsrjekouayn7y2cy