Special Issue "Cultural, Legal and Political Dimensions of Public Norms in Sustainable Metropolitan Spaces"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Urban and Rural Development".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. em. W.G.M. (Willem) Salet
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Department of Geography, Planning and International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 166, 1018 WV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Interests: institutions and planning; comparing city-regions; cultural norms; political norms; legality; sustainable city-regions

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

In the current stage of urbanisation, major cities and decentralised urban spaces are converging in wide city-regions on a metropolitan scale. To guide this fragile and largely unordered process of urbanisation toward coherent metropolitan spaces with sustainable ‘qualities of place’ would require the establishment of social and ecological (climate-proof) conditions to social and economic relationships. Since the early 1990s, public initiatives at different levels of scale have been taken in most western city-regions to enhance the objectives of sustainable metropolitan development. Yet, this trajectory of sustainable transition appears to be thorny and obdurate. Purposive change appears to be difficult in complex societies. The purposive mission is characterised by a permanent state of negotiation and the changing commitment of many involved actors with different stakes; Not seldom do the attempts of goal achievement result in reversed outcomes. The quintessence of this Special Issue is that purposive systems run down when not adequately sustained by sets of public norms (Salet, 2018a, b). Public norms differ strongly when it comes to objectives or problem-solving pragmatism. They set normative conditions to social interaction rather than organising the performance of objectives. They provide a normative antenna in complex situations of uncertainty when people do not know the purposes of the other, but keep another to shared public norms of ‘appropriateness’. A sustainable metropolitan transition depends on the vital interaction between public norms and purposive strategies of action. However, the search for public norms seems to be undervalued in the prevailing purposive (often managerial) strategies of change. Therefore, the Issue focuses on the normative dilemmas of public action.

The social relevance of public norms is never self-evident. They may be institutionalised in historic trajectories, but yet have to be validated time after time in ongoing practices (actively sustained, reproduced, reinterpreted and innovated) in order to make a difference. Processes of social normalisation often contain dilemmas or social conflicts of interpretation. The validation of institutional norms is a permanent challenge rather than a given a priori. In this sense, calling attention to public norms does not provide any more certainty than focussing on purposive strategies. The added value is in directing the reflection of the public to dilemmas of justifying —a ‘normative judgment’—in addition to, and in interaction, with the ‘practical judgment’ of purposive action strategies.

This Special Issue is subdivided into three parts, addressing, respectively, the cultural norms, the political norms and the legal norms of sustainable metropolitan transition. The informal cultural norms address the ways in which small and large communities reproduce and reassess the cultural codes of appropriateness. They express the ways in which citizens cultivate their norms of sustainable metropolis. These public norms may be embedded in cooperative social forces and may underlie the social acceptance of political and legal norms. Political norms of sustainable metropolitan transition address the political dilemmas and choices of material rules with regards to social and ecological conditions of metropolitan development; furthermore, political norms arrange the interrelationships of different involved actors (the rules of the game), such as the political ordinance of new renewable energy markets (including social distribution and access). Legal norms address the fundamental meaning of legal norms versus the (more routine) instrumentalisation of legislation to policy objectives. Legal norms include the reciprocal search of legal obligation in the multi-actor public action of city-regions.

Prof. Dr. em. W.G.M. (Willem) Salet
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • institutionalisation
  • public norms
  • cultural norms
  • political norms
  • legal norms
  • purposive planning strategies
  • the making of sustainable metropolis

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

Article
Cities, Urban Property Systems, and Sustainability Transitions: Contested Processes of Institutional Change and the Regulation of Urban Property Development
Sustainability 2021, 13(15), 8429; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su13158429 - 28 Jul 2021
Viewed by 521
Abstract
Sustainability transitions research has emerged as one of the most influential approaches to conceptualizing the potential and practice of transformative system change to avoid climate catastrophe. Evolving from work on socio-technical systems via Geels’ multi-level perspective (MLP), this conceptual framework has contributed to [...] Read more.
Sustainability transitions research has emerged as one of the most influential approaches to conceptualizing the potential and practice of transformative system change to avoid climate catastrophe. Evolving from work on socio-technical systems via Geels’ multi-level perspective (MLP), this conceptual framework has contributed to understanding how complex systems in the contemporary world can be transformed. This paper contributes to the sustainability transitions literature in three main ways. First, the paper develops a conceptual framework focused on the urban property systems which regulate and support urban property, infrastructure and governance that are historically produced, are densely institutionalized, and through which public norms of property and governance are deeply embedded in and continually inscribed in urban space. Second, the paper suggests that urban property systems are continually and vigorously contested and demonstrate different modes of institutional change than those recognized by the existing sustainability transitions literature. Third, the paper illustrates the approach with a case study of the contested governance of property development in Toronto, Ontario, long one of the fastest growing cities in North America. The Toronto case suggests that institutions embedded in urban property systems are consequential and deserve more attention by those concerned with low-carbon transitions. Full article
Article
Toward the Sustainable Metropolis: The Challenge of Planning Regulation
Sustainability 2021, 13(15), 8189; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su13158189 - 22 Jul 2021
Viewed by 855
Abstract
Promoting urban sustainability and resilience is a demanding and challenging task. This paper focuses on the obstacles related to planning and regulation that stem from the structure of urban planning apparatuses and the substantial incompatibilities between them and common urban dynamics. Based on [...] Read more.
Promoting urban sustainability and resilience is a demanding and challenging task. This paper focuses on the obstacles related to planning and regulation that stem from the structure of urban planning apparatuses and the substantial incompatibilities between them and common urban dynamics. Based on case studies from Tel Aviv-Jaffa, whose urban structure and municipal management appear to support the vision of urban sustainability and resilience, this paper presents three types of obstacles and concludes with four major challenges. The first obstacle relates to keeping urban infrastructure updated according to new technologies and knowledge. The second involves acknowledging the unintended consequences of planning actions, particularly those engaged with “green” policies. The third refers to confronting entrenched urban structures and processes. The practical obstacles include awareness of the widening social and spatial gaps that may result from uneven sustainability and resilience adaptation; the importance of keeping “open minds” about the required adaptation of plans and facilities to new knowledge and technologies; awareness of the fact that big plans require prolonged processes, which likely means timely adaptation of programs and means; and the need to facilitate communication between urban and governmental bodies and prepare for frequent coordination and consultation in various combinations. Full article
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Article
Public Norms in the Operation Scheme of Urban Rail Transit Express Trains: The Case of the Beijing Changping Line
Sustainability 2021, 13(13), 7187; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su13137187 - 26 Jun 2021
Viewed by 366
Abstract
The development of urban rail transit is of great significance to the sustainable development of cities. However, the formulation of public norms of the urban rail transit train operation scheme lacks the corresponding theoretical support, rationality and scientificity. Therefore, based on the research [...] Read more.
The development of urban rail transit is of great significance to the sustainable development of cities. However, the formulation of public norms of the urban rail transit train operation scheme lacks the corresponding theoretical support, rationality and scientificity. Therefore, based on the research on passenger flow conditions, this paper establishes an optimization model of express train operation and uses a heuristic genetic algorithm to solve it. In addition, this paper takes the Beijing Changping Line as an example to conduct empirical research. Results show that the optimization model established reduces the operation cost of operating enterprises, improves the capacity of urban rail transit, reduces travel time and maintains the full load rate of trains at a more comfortable level. This will improve the attractiveness of urban rail transit and promote benign interaction between operators and passengers. It will also provide a theoretical basis for formulating public norms of transit train operation, make it more scientific and reasonable and promote the development of urban rail transit. Full article
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Article
Public Norms in Practices of Transitional Planning—The Case of Energy Transition in The Netherlands
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4454; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/su13084454 - 16 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 528
Abstract
The fallibility of intervening in complex realities is widely recognized in planning theory. The prevailing planning approaches of the last two decades may be summarized as attempts to make planning more responsive, corrective, and resilient, and also more sociocratic vis à vis the [...] Read more.
The fallibility of intervening in complex realities is widely recognized in planning theory. The prevailing planning approaches of the last two decades may be summarized as attempts to make planning more responsive, corrective, and resilient, and also more sociocratic vis à vis the traditional government-centric rationalization of planning. These adaptations make sense, yet keep planning within the pragmatic scope of purposive aspirations and pragmatic problem solving. The pivotal statement of the article is that purposive systems run down in complex societies when not adequately sustained by institutionalizing sets of public norms. Public norms fulfil a different function than goal orientation. They provide a normative compass in times of uncertainty and set conditions to social interaction rather than organizing the performance of objectives or solving problems. The article aims to highlight the interrelationships of public norms and pragmatic strategies of planning. Empirically, the article addresses the major turning points of Dutch climate policy concerning the transitions of the electricity market, the major municipal–entrepreneurial initiatives of city-heating, and the decentralization of climate policies. The method of analysis is based on policy analysis of legislation, policy documents, and published contributions to public debates. The results of the analysis highlight the differences between the high policy aspirations and the outcomes. The results give evidence of the wicked problems in the complex energy transition. The discussion questions the mischievousness of ‘good’ planning intentions in complex social figurations, and critically examines the institutionalization of the material norms and the norms of politico-ordinance. The conclusions suggest that the social normalization of public norms in Dutch climate policies is not yet adequately materialized to effectively cope with wicked problems. Full article
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