The “Aesthetic Turn” as a Bridge between Communicative and Agonist Planning Theories
Exploring the Interplay of “Consensus” and “Dissensus” with a View on Its Implications for Finnish Planning
Keywords:agonism, communicative planning, consensus, dissensus, Habermas
This paper discusses the dispute between consensus-oriented communicative planning theorists and dissensus-oriented agonist planning theorists. The paper starts from the observation that a number of advocates of agonism have followed the so-called “aesthetic turn” in political thought. They have emphasised, in particular, the politically progressive potential of the mode of reason that Kant introduced in his aesthetics, a mode that deviates from the Kantian theoretical and practical modes of reason, and one that has generally been marginalised in modern societies. While the proponents of agonism wish to make use of this mode of reason when attempting to challenge hegemonic projects and give voice to marginalised groups in society, Habermas has been generally taken to be one of those philosophers who marginalize the aesthetic mode of reason. Yet, also Habermas has found inspiration from Kant’s aesthetics, including the notions of consensus and sensus communis. Hence, the paper revisits Kantian aesthetics to search for a common ground between Habermasian and agonist views of politics and planning. It ends up arguing that the notions of consensus and dissensus do not stand for mutually exclusive orientations in planning, but both of these orientations have their places in planning systems and practices. The paper takes a look at some recent case studies that have charted potential places for productive agonist confrontations in the British development control based planning system. Having done so, the paper ends with some suggestions as to where would be the appropriate places for respective approaches in the context of Finnish planning.