Willem Salet

Willem Salet

Sidney Smith Hall, Room SS5016 | 100 St. George Street, Toronto, ON, M5S 3G3 (map)

The Turn to Institutions in Action

The ignorance of institutions is one of the larger problems today. The aspirations of individuals, organizations and states, their perceptions of problems and suggestions for possible solutions circulate fast in the instantaneous society. However, the deliberation of the underlying sets of public norms (I call these ‘institutions’) seems to escape the attention of the public, and of the planners. Purposive systems run wild without reflection on institutions. Institutions enable people to have reliable expectations from another whilst not even knowing the aspirations and purposes of the other. Public norms enable to act under conditions of increasing uncertainty. However, institutions are not evident, they need enhancement, maintenance and innovation in order to fulfill their role in society. Their validation is in ongoing practices. That is why this talk deals with institutions ‘in action’.

Public norms and aspirations have to be distinguished in planning research as different dimensions of public action. Their meaning and their roles are complementary but highly different. Also the trajectories of change differ fundamentally. It is important first to understand these differences in order to find feasible ways of their interaction. In planning research and planning practices, most attention goes to the pragmatic and purposive approaches of problem solving: the profession is still waiting for an upgrade of institutional perspectives. The ultimate challenge for planning is to define productive ways of interaction between institutional conditions and pragmatic action.

Willem Salet will discuss two recent books about this theme: a monograph and a reader exploring different ways to integrate public norms and purposeful action.

About the Speaker: Willem Salet is Professor Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Amsterdam. He chaired the program group Urban Planning 1998-2016. He directed the school of urban research 1998-2003, Prof. Salet is specialized in institutional approaches of planning and investigates cultural, political and governance aspects of metropolitan development. He was the President of the Association of European Schools of Planning AESOP (2007-2009). In 2016 he is awarded a honorary membership of AESOP.