Town Planning Review

The pendulum swings again

In search of new transport rationalities

Town Planning Review (2001), 72, (3), 299–320.

Abstract

In this paper, the theoretical work of Michel Foucault is used to construct an approach to the analysis of transport policy which focuses on the inherently political and contested nature of policy making, played out in the competition between discourses. This approach is used to analyse critically British transport policy in the 1990s, when, in a climate of risk and uncertainty, policy turned away from a demand-driven paradigm towards a ‘new realism’ of sustainability and integrated transport. The approach scrutinises the construction of rationality in transport policy: the discourse-driven shaping of knowledge, through the contingent use of analytical tools and decision-making processes, which conditions policy making. The paper concludes that claims of a new paradigm in transport policy are misplaced, and that institutionalising the new discourse will depend on a more fundamental rethinking of tools and processes than has so far occurred.

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Richardson, Tim