Science, planning, and the logic of suburban sprawl

Dustin R. Hiles, Janine Schipper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines how planners have helped buttress the rational society and shaped the logic of suburban development in the U.S. In attempts to maintain an expert class and pursue “progress” through scientific management, planning inadvertently helps sustain the suburban sprawl that characterizes development in post-WWII America. We explore how the planning industry’s efforts to reform housing development gets undermined through use of an elitist professional discourse, cooption by capitalist developers and real estate interests, and a lack of dedication to democracy and public inclusion. We also examine how Critical Planning Theory seeks to challenge the dominant rationalized model. Finally, considering the challenges that the planning industry continues to face, we ask what it would take to recast planning as a serious reform effort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-762
Number of pages22
JournalSociological Spectrum
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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