Popular Action and the Roots of Planning

Hall’s “Cities of Tomorrow” is reminding me just how prevalent the fear of class action was on the development of planning in the late 19th century. The characterization of the industrial poor as desperate wretches certainly provided the impetus for state and philanthropic action, yet it also seems to have led to a more imminent fear of the lower classes. As Hall explains, this was almost certainly spurred on by a growing class consciousness, direct action by labor unions, and the rapid spread of socialist and worker’s parties throughout Europe in the 1880’s and 90’s.

After completing this chapter, I’d like to revisit this same topic from a modern vantage point. The mass action and popular agitation that has come along with the rekindling of the civil rights movement and growing perception of wage inequality will help to form the planning priorities for the next several decades. The State, corporate, and philanthropic response is underway, though in fits and starts. Next week I’d like to evaluate where popular action might drive planning in the near future.

Revisiting Peter Hall’s Cities of Tomorrow

After a full year’s separation from planning school, I’ve decided to revisit some of the standard  literature that formed the basis of my early, non-blog/pop-planning education. I figure with some professional experience under my belt I’ll be able to approach these things with a more critical eye, see what works and what doesn’t (at least from my limited personal experience), and wring a bit more academic enjoyment out of something that doesn’t come attached to an assignment. Working in the field, it is remarkably easy to fall out of academic practice. You lose sight of the things that got you interested in planning in the first place, overshadowed by the standard struggles of the workday.

I’m starting with Peter Hall’s Cities of Tomorrow, which might be my first assigned reading as a student. I remember most of broad strokes. The colliding and diverging branches of theory spiraling into and out of bureaucratic practice, planning as problem solving giving way to new urban crises, the outsized character of Le Corbusier, and the emergence of modern global cities. A brief reading of the opening chapter reminds me of the complicated and twisting nature of new ideas in planning and how they come into and out of favor, how they are bastardized, coopted, rediscovered, or refounded. Hall specifically points out Howard’s Garden Cities as indicative of this phenomenon.

I recently found out about a city planning book club, which should be a good resource for future, non-syllabus-related lit. I’ll be following up with my thoughts on this and future readings weekly.


You’ve found the personal site of Joseph S. DeAngelis. I am a New York City-based planner currently working on neighborhood-based resiliency plans for coastal communities in Staten Island.  This site will function as sort of a landing page, a repository for some of my projects and research, and a way for me to blog about some of my interests in the planning field.

For information on how to contact me, please refer to my About page. Original and contributory research can be found on the Projects page. Thanks for stopping by.