Untangling 'integration' in urban development policy debates

Edgar Pieterse

Pieterse, E. (2004). Untangling 'integration' in urban development policy debates. Urban Forum 15 (1): pp. 1–35. Available here.


The purpose of the paper is to tease out the multiple and shifting meanings of 'integration' in urban development thinking. I propose to do this by exploring three contiguous policy debates that shed light on a different dimension of the elusive strategy/ideal. The three debates arise from urban planning studies, environmental critiques of urban development, and the more recent focus on urban management. In particular, my interest is to understand the associations and meanings of integration in urban development policies in the current period when the mainstream policy consensus is seemingly settled on the desirability of 'sustainable urban development'—a notion that re-appears time and again in the various policy statements of the South African government and generally regarded as the outcome of urban integration strategies.

The first section of the paper delves into planning debates about urban integration. Here I trace the movement away from blueprint master planning to more provisional and strategic approaches to urban planning. Of particular relevance for urban integration are the questions of planning scales in the city, participation of citizens with different degrees of access to power, and environmental imperatives of efficiency. The second section provides a more in-depth account of the environmental debates in urban development. Since this is the most well developed body of knowledge on urban integration, I spend some time differentiating between the various facets of the literature with particular emphasis on the lessons that arise from both the 'green' and 'brown' strands of the field. The core points that emerge here are the centrality of politics and questions of unequal power in the city. The final section of the paper deals with the institutional aspects of the urban development puzzle through an exploration of urban management and governance. This discussion highlights the organisational preconditions that arise from the planning, environmental and governance debates in any move towards greater integration—a dimension that is often under-theorised or altogether forgotten.

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