Institutional Gaps in Agonistic and Communicative Planning Theories. Critical Implications of the ‘Systemic Turn’ in Deliberative Democracy Theory

Raine Mäntysalo*, Hanna Mattila, Aino Hirvola

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


The paper critically reviews communicative and agonistic planning theories from the viewpoint of a systemic turn in deliberative democracy theory. While the approach reveals complementarities between the theories, it also argues that each theory is vulnerable to criticism because of an ‘insti-tutional gap’. The theories are found to complement each other in addressing planning conflicts at different dimen-sions. Communicative planning theory deals with conflicts between different stakeholders’ interests in planning processes. Agonistic planning theory, in turn, concentrates on conflicts from a more ontological dimension, related to the (implicit) conflict between hegemonic and marginalized discourses and related identity-forming processes of inclusion and exclusion in planning policies and governance. The institutional gap of communicative planning theory is argued to reside in its focus on situational deliberation that largely ignores the institutional dimension of rules and norms of democratic conduct. Agonistic pluralism, in turn, does engage with the dimension of democratic institutions, but in an overly critical manner, making it difficult for agonistic planning theory to address the dynamic interplay between institutional reconfiguration and policy stabilization in planning. This is argued to be the institutional gap of agonistic planning theory. The paper calls for further work in the field of planning theory to incorporate a systemic approach to deliberative democracy and thereby tap into the dialectics of institutional and situational dimensions of planning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-448
Number of pages12
JournalRaumforschung und Raumordnung
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Conflict
  • Consensus
  • Democratic institution
  • Hegemonic discourse
  • Situational deliberation


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