Contemporary Urban Planners: A Cross-Cultural Study
In a Weberian rational world, the planning profession would be populated by planners who operate in a value neutral environment. However, numerous studies have been conducted indicating that planners are indeed influenced by personal and cultural values, attitudes and biases. Such influences include the planners' social and political backgrounds, their socialization to professional norms during planning school and their work environments. Studies examining the practices of planners in various countries further illustrates that personal and cultural values play a significant role in how planners carry out the functions of their job. Kaufman (1985, 2000) conducted two studies examining differences between cultures. His first study examined attitudinal differences between American and Israeli planners. Kaufman's subsequent research examined differences among American, Dutch and Spanish planners. His findings verified that the individual attitudes of the planners did have an impact on their professional practices. The results also indicated that the cultures of each country affected how the planners confronted different job situations. These studies indicate that individual values, attitudes and ethics do affect urban planners, both in the United States and in the other countries studied. The implications of these results indicate that individual preferences will create a wide spectrum of behavior and outcomes in the urban planning profession. The diversity created by this array of differences plays a significant role in the planning field. As we enter the 21st century, it is apparent that diverse populations prevalently inhabit once homogenous countries. Consequently, diversity in planning practice and education has moved to the forefront of the profession's goals. We will use cross-national data on urban planners and Geert Hofstede's five dimensions of culture (Individualism-Collectivism; Power Distance; Masculinity-Femininity; Uncertainty Avoidance; and Long-Term Orientation) as a theoretical framework to explain the effect of national cultural differences on the role and practice of urban planning.
Keywords: Urban Planners, Cross-cultural
Dr. Alejandro Rodriguez
Assistant Professor, The School of Urban and Public Administration, The University of Texas at Arlington
School of Urban and Public Affairs, University of Texas at Arlington