Comparison of planning systems should focus on institutions, not culture

Taylor, Zack. 2013. “Rethinking Planning Culture: A New Institutionalist Approach,” Town Planning Review, 84(6), pp. 683–702.

Scholars of planning have long grappled with the dilemma of how to explain variation among places’ traditions, modes or styles of planning practice and the legal and institutional frameworks that govern spatial development and implement planning policies. In a related effort, historians have explored the international diffusion of planning ideas and practices, the study of which has gained contemporary relevance in the context of European integration and globalisation. At the core of these enterprises is an attempt to understand change—to specify how and why planning practices are changing and why distinct patterns of planning practice have evolved in different places and at different times. Recent work has embraced the concept of ‘planning culture’ as the basis for explanation, yet this work has lacked focus. This article argues that historical institutionalism as developed in the social sciences provides a more precise explanatory framework for comparative planning research.