Aporia of Participatory Planning: Framing Local Action in the Entrepreneurial City


  • Ryan Love




This essay examines the hegemonic-discursive barriers facing local action in cities today, first, by revisiting the New Left/Frankfurt School critique of modern institutions, which not incidentally proved a key inspirational source for the original grassroots movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

In this first section of the essay, Adorno's analysis of the Culture Industry is reconsidered alongside Berger’s and Bourdieu's critical sociology. Second, it is argued that the institutional recuperation of localism since the 1970s has resulted in a paradoxical abandoning or overturning of its earlier revolutionary-utopian motives, which has subsequently sowed the seeds for a new counterrevolutionary trend in local politics (so-called NIMBYism). This trend is seen as attendant to still larger city-transformative processes of gentrification and neoliberalisation, or ‘urban entrepreneurialism.’

The essay concludes, finally, with an exposition of the central challenges at hand, and presents an alternative envisioning of participation as a mode of nonintegrative or counterhegemonic praxis.

Author Biography

Ryan Love

Ryan Love is an architect and writer based in Toronto, Canada. He completed his MArch at the University of Toronto after receiving a BA in philosophy. Among his research interests are the cultural dimensions of globalisation, modernisation and technics. As an architect he is currently engaged in the areas of adaptive-reuse, heritage conservation and community self-build.