Geografisk Tidsskrift, Bind 98 (1998)

L. Sandercock: Towards Cosmopolis - Planning for Multicultural Cities. Wiley, Chichester 1998. 258 s., ill., 24cm. GBP 16,-.

Ann-Katrin Bäcklund

Like Martin Luther King, Leonie Sandercock has a dream - a truly democratic pluralistic city. And she argues consistently for that her Utopia - Cosmopolis is an inevitable part of the future. Cities are not and will never again be a homogenous white men's territory. In New York the white population has become a minority, which in turn is made up of segmented groups, not only ethnic, but divided by class, gender and lifestyles. The trend is the same in most world cities. Although Sandercock's reasoning is politically radical, and although she sides with the marginalised groups, there is little talk about capital and power relations, this is why Luther King comes to mind. Sandercocks theses is that the great modernist planning project, whether radical or conservative, will not be able to lead the process of differentiation in these multicultural cities. New socio-cultural forces in the age of migration is undermining the planning politics of modernism. To prove her point she makes a well argued attack on traditional apolitical planning literature, showing how it omits women and minorities theoretical as well as practical contribution to planning, and how this "objective" history is conveyed to planning students. Along with this she gives an interesting historical review of planning practices in the postwar period and the philosophy that brought them about and how the models are linked to the prevailing societal norms. In this part the author comes over very convincingly. The next step, to portray the new post-modern planning is by necessity a more complicated task, where it is not as easy to convince. According to Sandercock planning has to realise that there are multiple publics, which require a new multicultural literacy of the planners. They can no longer solely rely on census data and simulation models. A postmodern planning will have to rely more on practical wisdom, be more people-centred and planners will have to make use of new ways of understanding the communities they are working for in a process that moves from the ground upwards. Her perspective is truly global when she takes the reader to examples of the planning frontier, from aborigine populations in Australia to municipal planning projects in Europe. Sandercock's best contribution is her stringent analysis of the planning styles and their epistemological logic. Her arguing will surely stand a fair chance to convince even a sceptical student that planning is not an a-political crafts work, but a normative process. I am also sure her text will provoke and give fuel to intense debate. Does a planner really have to consider the life style in gay living areas and accept Muslim church yards in places that were planned for other purposes?