Approaches to the act of planning are (1) the rational model, (2) disjointed incrementalism, (3) a middle-range approach as exemplified by "mixed scanning," and (4) collaborative rationality.
The rational model prescribes a comprehensive approach, which begins with problem definition and proceeds through value clarification to selection of goals, formulation of alternative possible actions, forecasting the consequences of those actions, selection of a course of action, detailed plan formulation, and evaluation and modification. The model is comprehensive and systematic. It is designed to begin at square one and proceed to an optimum choice of actions. The model may be regarded as the orthodox view. It has been subjected to a variety of criticisms. Some have asserted that it is unrealistic and may ignore valid interests and considerations that would be taken into account in a planning process that placed less emphasis on system and optimization and more on reaching agreement among disparate and contending parties.
The incremental approach, of which Charles Lindblom is the best-known proponent, stresses reaching agreement, making incremental adjustments, and relying on precedent. For reasons discussed at length, he suggests that the use of the rational model is often neither possible nor wise.
The mixed scanning introduced by Amitai Etzioni is essentially a synthesis of these two approaches. It involves a less than complete scan of the situation followed by the application of a comprehensive approach to only parts of the total problem. It has been generally well received by planners, in part because it appears to describe a process that many planners actually follow.
Collaborative planning, the newest of the four approaches, emphasizes inclusion of as many stakeholders as possible and an extended period of "authentic dialogue." Its proponents see it as less hierarchical than the rational model process and as giving somewhat less weight to technical expertise and more to the interests, feelings, experience, and intuitions of stakeholders.
Criticism of planning from the right has generally been based on a view that market mechanisms are more efficient allocators of resources than are administrative decisions. Some antipathy on the right also stems from the view that political freedom is most likely to flourish in an environment in which decisions about the allocation of resources are made privately rather than collectively.
Criticism of planning from the left has not been directed at planning as an idea but rather at the manner in which planning is perceived to be done in the United States. Specifically, radicals have claimed that planning as practiced supports the interest of the capitalist class (which the left sees as the dominant class) and that it papers over major injustices and disparities in wealth and power with minor reforms and palliatives.
The chapter suggests the manner in which the planner of a more or less centrist ideological persuasion might respond to criticisms from right and left. How one views planning cannot be separated from one's overall political and ideological position.