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Planning Matter

Acting with Things

City and regional planners talk constantly about the things of the world—from highway interchanges and retention ponds to zoning documents and conference rooms—yet most seem to have a poor understanding of the materiality of the world in which they’re immersed. Too often planners treat built forms, weather patterns, plants, animals, or regulatory technologies as passively awaiting commands rather than actively involved in the workings of cities and regions.

In the ambitious and provocative Planning Matter, Robert A. Beauregard sets out to offer a new materialist perspective on planning practice that reveals the many ways in which the nonhuman things of the world mediate what planners say and do. Drawing on actor-network theory and science and technology studies, Beauregard lays out a framework that acknowledges the inevitable insufficiency of our representations of reality while also engaging more holistically with the world in all of its diversity—including human and nonhuman actors alike.

264 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2015

History: Environmental History, Urban History

Philosophy: Philosophy of Society

Political Science: Political and Social Theory

Sociology: Occupations, Professions, Work


“This is a brilliant book. Planning Matter is carefully crafted, rigorously argued, and truly original, poised to become a seminal component of planning literature for decades to come. Beauregard has rethought the debates that have been central to planning theory for decades, and his book will open up new pathways for scholarly investigation—and perhaps even creative action by practitioners.”

James A. Throgmorton, author of Planning as Persuasive Storytelling

“In this extraordinary work Beauregard makes a strikingly original contribution to planning thought. Embracing a new materialism, he examines the interplay between the physical and human world, avoiding both Marxian determinism and a vision of the world as existing wholly through perception. Filled with brilliant insights, this book can be read as planning theory, philosophy, and sociology.”

Susan S. Fainstein, Harvard Graduate School of Design and author of The Just City

Planning Matter goes back to some of its roots and does away (at least partly) with the new materialist experiment. It ends up advocating for the modernist aspiration of civic duty of the planner, but with a focus on ‘hybridizing’ rather than simply ‘purifying’ as the planner-as-modernist-organizer was. In a sense, the attempt at a ‘third’ materialism in the theory of planning espoused in the introduction is partly successful here, but the reader might ultimately be left wondering how to apply such an approach. Inevitably, at a second read and as in any good movie with a final twist, the book might in fact appear more of a thought experiment than a new theory of planning. Nevertheless, as a ‘Sixth Sense’ book offering an unexpected end and a relatively new sensibility (for planning practice), Beauregard’s Planning Matter certainly stands up as one of the most interesting reads of the last few years.”

Urban Studies

Table of Contents


1 Ontographies
2 Talk, Action, and Consequences
3 Planning with Things
4 Neglected Places of Practice
5 Distributed Morality
6 Truths and Realities
7 Planning in an Obdurate World
8 Temporalities
9 Unfulfi lled Promise
10 The Worldliness of Planning Theory
11 Planning Will Always Be Modern

Cited Index


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