14 September 2020 saw Sherif Zakhour successfully defending his PhD (Zakhour 2020a) at the Royal Institute of Technology. Comparing planning theorists as to where they stand on democracy, Sherif’s comments on my ‘A Decision Centred View of Environmental Planning’ (Faludi 1987) are meticulously fair. He also intimates that there have been, sometimes ill-conceived comments on my earlier ‘Planning Theory’. (Faludi 1978 [1973], see also Zakhour 2020b; for my own, more or less last reflections on my planning theory see Faludi 1998).

Zakhour is remarkable not only for his fairness but also for his taking account of works of Pierre Rosanvallon’s available in English. Reading it mostly in French may have made me focus too much on the language. I seem to have failed appreciating him, like his teacher Claude Lefort identifying what Zakhour calls the ‘democratic void’ left by the monarch’s not only being chased away, but meeting his end at the guillotine. As Hardt and Negri (2000, 102) say: henceforth, the people had to be imagined as an organic whole: a nation.

Which in turn leads to asking who belongs and who does not, with in its wake questions concerning the territory people may call their own. Taking possession – and the defense of – territories thus became an issue, not simply of enlarging or maintaining the property of the monarch, but of the people’s very identity: what Balibar (2009, 193) calls the sacralisation of borders.

To the best of my knowledge, Rosanvallon has never asked what territory the people should call their own. He is dealing with democracy within one state: the French one. Bear with me – I have not kept up with the planning theoretical literature – but I suspect the planning theorists Zakhour positions within a triangle formed by the ‘liberalism’, ‘voluntarism’ and ‘rationalism’ enclosing the ‘democratic void’ Rosanvallon and Lefors’ do the same: problematise democracy within one state, thereby loosing sight of the fact that we perhaps wrongly assume the state and the people being encased within fixed borders, creating more issues for democratic legitimacy as it does.


Balibar, E. (1993) ‘Europe as borderland’, Environment and Planning D: Planning and Society, 27, 190-2015.

Faludi, A. (1978 [1973]) Planning Theory, Pergamon, Oxford.

Faludi, A. (1987) A Decision-centred View of Planning, Pergamon, Oxford.

Faludi, A. (1998) ‘From planning theory mark 1 to planning theory mark 3’, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design Anniversary Issue, 110-117.

Hardt, M., Negri, A. (2000) Empire, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.

Zakhour, S. (2020a) Democracy and Planning: Contested Meanings in Theory and Practice, Doctoral Thesis in Planning and Decision Analysis, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.

Zakhour, S. (2020b). The democratic legitimacy of public participation in planning: Contrasting optimistic, critical, and agnostic understandings. Planning Theory. Advanced online publication: https://doi.org.10.1177/1473095219897404.

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