Hillier, Jean. Stretching Beyond the Horizon: A Multiplanar Theory of Spatial Planning and Governance.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Brooks, Kerry R.
Pub Date: 12/22/2009
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Winter, 2009 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 2
Topic: NamedWork: Stretching Beyond the Horizon: A Multiplanar Theory of Spatial Planning and Governance (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Hillier, Jean
Accession Number: 254757304
Full Text: Hillier, Jean.

Stretching Beyond the Horizon: A Multiplanar Theory of Spatial Planning and Governance.

Aldershort, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2007.

250 pp.

ISBN: 9780754647492.

In this book, Jean Hillier develops and presents a postrepresentational theory of spatial planning and governance. Hillier seeks to redefine spatial planning and governance theory to be relevant to the complexity, dynamics and immanence of the world, as well as aiming to bridge the gap between "old" ways of spatial planning and governance and a new, Deleuzoguattarrian way of thinking.

This work is grounded in the geophilosophy of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari and others concerned with complexity, relationality, fluidity, performativity and power. Hillier aims to: transform abstract notions of Deleuzoguattarian geophilosophy into a "useful basis for spatial management"; develop non-deterministic discourse; integrate theoretical understanding of transformation, space, time, place and power; develop postrepresentational theory for students, researchers and practitioners; support insightful practice; consider space-time as a series of dynamic, possible, uncertain "would-be-worlds"; and to "demythologize" notions of "responsible spatial planning processes" (p. 13).

Hillier identifies the book's themes as including: consensus versus conflict ("agonism"); lack (incompleteness); the idea that the future is indeterminate and unspecifiable; the notions of "open-ended fluidity and temporary fixity"; power and power-play; and transformation, emergence and immanence. Additionally, Hillier defines and employs contrasting views of complexity and of the world, which she calls either baroque or romantic (p. 27).

Hillier claims this book is not about technical planning but about spatial planning as "an exemplar of governance" (p. 10), which is governance that recognizes both spatial organization and place qualities as important. She writes this theory as a work in progress and cautions that it not be taken as a new -ism, rather her intent is to generate "connections and transformations" that "challenge and move beyond existing frameworks" (pp. 13-14).

The book includes eleven chapters, organized into three parts. Part 1 provides conceptual and motivational background. Here, Hillier discusses tensions and issues faced by researchers and practitioners, highlighting the need for a new worldview considerate of complexity, emergence and contingency. Chapter 2 introduces the thought of post-structural philosophers, covering (among many other topics): the work of Patsy Healey; Jurgen Habermas and the 'communicative turn' in planning theory; the lack and the outside; complexity and emergence; actant-network theory, and critiques of representation.

In Chapter 3, Hillier presents Deleuzoguattarian vocabulary and concepts (which are used throughout the text), and relates modern art to Deleuze and to spatial planning (taken up in detail in Ch. 9). The concepts discussed and defined include multiplicity, connection, fragmentation, fluid relational networks, immanence, lines/trajectories, performativity, assemblages, smooth and striated space, territorialisation, lack, the positivity of the Deleuzean viewpoint, and contingency. For readers initially unfamiliar with this philosophy this chapter bears close study.

In Part 2, Hillier critically analyzes empirical studies that highlight the themes and tensions presented in Part One. The cases include: conflict over development and traditional indigenous land use; the spatio-temporal dynamics of old-growth forests and the Regional Forest Agreement Process in SW Australia; and the land use/environmental issue of dismantling "toxic" ships in England. To these cases Hillier applies Lacanian analysis and Deleuzean cartography, and considers, for example, conflict and antagonism, the privileging or admissibility of different world views of time and meaning, and notions of responsibility and social justice across space.

In Part 3 the author presents the core of the new theory, which considers: "folding" spatial planning and governance differently; conceiving of and dealing with potentials beyond those we can already experience; and affirming postrepresentation over representation and immanence over transcendence. Chapter 8 moves the reader beyond the problems of representation to a post-representational theory of dynamic complexity, supported by references to modern art, Foucault, Derrida and Nigel Thrift. Hillier presents Deleuzean diagrams as agents of transformation and temporary fixities ("stopping points"), as creative means of moving beyond habitus cliche.

Hillier notes that postrepresentational thinking acknowledges gap, lack, and unexpected events as opportunities or possibilities. Postrepresentational style thinking is "... supple, fluid, relational, flat and non-hierarchical ...[and] goes beyond the given and habitual ... [to take] context into consideration ... [as well as] the whole range of understandings and interpretations of different individuals and groups" (p. 221). Practitioners (actants) in this mode are seen as sensitive to becomings, engaging in practical knowing and, with stakeholders, as able to see and construct other possibilities. In this view, problems are not solved once and for all but are revisited and reformulated.

In Chapter 9, Hillier presents the new postrepresentational theory in which spatial planning is defined as "the investigation of 'virtualities' unseen in the present; the speculation about what may yet happen; the temporary inquiry into what at a given time and place we might yet think and do, and how this might influence socially and environmentally just spatial form" (p. 225).

In this chapter Hillier articulates the idea of multi-planar, relating planes of immanence and transcendence to plans. On the plane of immanence exist collectively preferred visions of the longer term (e.g., sustainability); on the plane of transcendence are shorter-term, more tangible and localized plans, seen as temporary fixities (e.g., main street regeneration) (p. 249). The chapter also includes a section on "overcoming cliche," as well as a valuable discussion of futuribles (foresight scenarios). Hillier also comments on possible objections to or issues with the theory, namely, "there is a need for representation; the theory is too relativist; the theory is merely incrementalism in a new guise; and it would result in an institutional void" (p. 256).

In Chapter 10, Hillier addresses what spatial planning practice could be like under the new theory, presenting examples from current practice that represent moves in that direction. She discusses problems with performance-based planning as opposed to performance-measured planning. In this regard, Hillier also presents practice examples that represent improvements or potential improvements.

In Chapter 11, Hillier reprises the intentions and major points of the book. Hillier reiterates the postrepresentational, multiplanar theoretical position which holds that planning practice, in consonance with a Deleuzean world view and baroque thinking, needs to be flexible, contingent, critical, creative, rhizomic, responsible and improvisational. Planning outcomes respect complexities, are collaborative, inclusive, and democratically determined. They are flexible, temporary fixities created with the awareness that there is no single, deterministic solution. Plans are Deleuzean diagrams--experimental, temporary, localized, transcendent fixities of planes/trajectories of immanence. Resonating with pragmatic philosophy, spatial plans are seen as experiments. Practitioners are self-reflexive, question values and commitments, and are willing and able to be flexible and creative.

The author positions her book as a work in progress, as a product of "writing rhizomically" (p. 313) so as to raise questions inspired by Deleuze and Guatarri and to incite thinking among theorists and practitioners (1). It is clear that Hillier expects the theory presented in the book to evolve. To that end, she suggests undertaking "critical reflection on case studies of practice" and refers to several exemplary critical studies (p. 325-326). Hillier cautions academics and practitioners against accepting the theory uncritically, but rather to consider adopting material that resonates with their "own ways of thinking and being" (p. 322).

In this respect, I commend this book to academics, to advanced students and to practitioners who are willing to devote themselves to the serious study the book demands due to the depth, scope and intensity of the material covered. The self-described 'rhizomic' writing style does make the text heavy going; yet the book is a tour-de-force in connecting the thoughts of numerous authors. To the extent that it provides a means and, if you will, a justification to move beyond 'old' style planning, it is also an important work.

If the Deleuzoguattarian viewpoint leads to a reframing of planning practice and outcomes in the ways claimed in the book, then any struggles with the text pale. To the extent that a Deleuzoguattarian approach facilitates creativity, promise and hope--as Hiller asserts--it is worth the effort to understand it and incorporate it into practice. Though not a 'how-to' book, it may point the way for new lines of flight, new creative and inclusive scenarios and plans that are needed more than ever as we confront daunting global issues.

Kerry R. Brooks PhD Associate Professor Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Washington State University

Note

(1) Hiller describes rhizomic thinking as a means to "reveal the multiple ways possible to assemble thoughts and actions in immanent, always-incomplete processes of becoming" (p. 3).
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