By Robert Goodman
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Planners want “social change” ; they deal in words, drawings, programs and build ings, not guns and napalm. But the kind of “social change” they usually find themselves dealing with, whether or not they recognize it, is organizing the oppressed into a system incapable of providing them with a humane existence, paci fying them with the meager welfare offerings that help maintain the status quo. At best we help ameliorate the condition produced by the status quo; at worst we engage in outright destruction.
In answer to this dilemma, one planner trained in the new schools argued that the profession should adopt the general approaches of operations research, and the specific device of systems analysis, as the basis for 'an intellectual approach to comprehensive planning, and clarifying its real nature’. Through this the professional identity of the planner would become more clearly defined. In fact, this solution was to prove prophetic for the direction planning would take in the 1960s, and fitted exactly the mood of other fields of government which were becoming concerned with efficiency and management techniques.
We weren’t alone in this belief. Since that time, the concept of providing professional help for the dis enfranchised has spread not only in the planning profession but in fields like health, economics, and education. It’s now even an accepted part of some government programs that the poor should have their own experts. 2 But, as I became more deeply involved in advocacy plan ning work, I began to have some serious doubts about how really significant it was all going to be. I began to question what a concept like "pluralism” meant in the context of our present American society.