Methods of engagement: On civic participation formats as composition devices in urban planning

Marie Leth Meilvang, Hjalmar Bang Carlsen & Anders Blok (2018)

European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 5:1-2, 12-41

Abstract. This article evaluates and develops the contribution of pragmatic sociology to the study of urban life and politics, by way of analysing recent shifts in the cultural-political forms of civic participation in formal urban planning. In doing so, it seeks to stage a critical test of the diagnosis of a ‘certified’, (neo-)liberal city that has recently emerged from work with Laurent Thévenot’s sociology of engagements and commonalities. Drawing on extensive empirical materials on the methods and formats of civic participation in contemporary Danish urban planning, we identify three dominant civic participation formats: the hearing, the dialogue meeting, and the workshop. These formats, we argue, work as composition devices that stabilise certain figures of the urban (quasi-)’citizen’, endowed with circumscribed possibilities for political engagement. Rather than a monolithic process of ‘certification’, we conclude, recent years have witnessed a partial and contested translation of the urban citizen into more manageable, liberal shapes.

Keywords: Pragmatic sociologyengagementsurban planningcivic participationcomposition
devices