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Understanding community development in a “theory of action” framework: Norms, markets, justice
Planning Theory and Practice (2014)
  • Laura Wolf-Powers, University of Pennsylvania
During the Great Recession, community development practitioners in the USA strove to prevent and mitigate mortgage foreclosures and to help people cope with their neighbourhood-level impacts. This paper proposes that three normative theories – theories of action – underlay this activity, as they underlie the practice of neighbourhood regeneration or “community development” planning in the USA in general. These theories of action are based, respectively, on planners’ perceived need for the reinstitution of civil norms, capital markets, and social justice in disinvested areas of cities and regions. Each theory links description with prescription, answering both the question “What’s going on in this neighbourhood? (and why?)” and the question “What ought to be done to change it?”. While an outward de´tente prevails among the “norms”, “markets”, and “justice” approaches, conflicts among them go to the heart of the struggle to find effective, morally acceptable policy responses to environmental deterioration and human deprivation in urban neighbourhoods.
  • theory of action,
  • community development,
  • mortgage meltdown
Publication Date
Summer June, 2014
Citation Information
Laura Wolf-Powers. "Understanding community development in a “theory of action” framework: Norms, markets, justice" Planning Theory and Practice Vol. 15 Iss. 2 (2014)
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