Histories of Planning

Dagmar Schäfer

Every activity, even the most humble, involves an element of planning, a process of negotiating knowledge and action that aims at making things work: an objective is identified, possibilities and constraints are considered; materials, skills, tools, and techniques are allocated; thoughts and things are organized, managed or adjusted. Choices are made and put into action. It may be an individual act or a collaborative effort, it may happen implicitly or be made explicit, in most planning processes, general patterns attain validity as much through experience and empirical method as through theorizing and abstraction.

Scrutinizing “histories of planning” unpacks knowledge production in action, thus emphasizing the entanglement and dynamics of knowledge forms in their historical ‘making’. As things have to work out and ends have to be met, humans identify physical realities and discuss how to handle them. They spell out cognitive capacities, validate knowledge, apply or dismiss ideas and practices. They identify patterns or methods that worked in the past and stabilize them, creating precedents. Purposeful planning also allows spontaneity and the ad-hoc nature of knowledge production to manifest. As it clears space for experiments and novelty it is suggestive of power relations, determining who had space to experiment, and at what level novelty was possible. How did individuals, communities and states envision and fashion spheres for creativity and negotiation? And how did they then develop, experiment, and stabilize them to make things work?

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