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Hierarchisation and fuzziness: The power of interlinked categories in urban planning
Stockholm University.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE).
2016 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this paper we ask how categories enable and constrain action in complex and long-term processes of municipal urban planning. Whereas previous studies to a large extent have focused on the conditions for corporations and their products, we develop theoretical insights about categorisation from the more scarcely investigated empirical context of the public sector. By an in-depth investigation of how the Swedish municipality of Varberg managed and organized large, complex urban planning changes, we show how two significantly different but closely interlinked categories simultaneously enabled and limited the scope and focus of these large-scale changes. More specifically we identify two distinct categories – one “project category” used to organize the specific urban planning process, and one “vision category” developed to govern the municipality as a whole – and explore how they influence one another and how they both individually and together shape the focus and scope of the change process. Through these two categories the complex and long-term planning is made sense of and is given structure and steerage in terms of both generative capabilities and constraints. The findings of the study of Varberg open up for further reflections about how categorisation creates power and action capabilities and its implications on democratic processes. Organisational categories, when they are taken on-board, are often perceived as natural and neutral and are valued because they decrease “noise” and give impetus for municipal development. Our study shows the need to also ask questions about what are sorted out and excluded through such processes of categorisations and what actor groups in society may not be allowed to make their voices heard and to influence such change processes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133421OAI: diva2:967381
The 9th international EIASM conference, Lisbon, Portugal, 6–8 September 2016
Available from: 2016-09-07 Created: 2016-09-07 Last updated: 2016-09-08

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Grafström, MariaTamm Hallström, Kristina
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Stockholm UniversityStockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE)
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