Ideology in practice: the career of sustainability as an ideological concept in strategic urban planning

Jonathan Metzger, Phil Allmendinger, Martin Kornberger

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


This paper presents an approach for analysing ideology dynamics in strategic urban planning based on post-foundational political theory. Drawing on empirical material of strategic planners discussing their usage of the concept of sustainability it is suggested that although planners generally consider themselves to be pragmatic problem-solvers, it is exactly in their efforts to ‘get things done’ that they become deeply embroiled in the social dynamics of ideology. The reason for this is that planners are forced to employ ideologically charged concepts to bring together the disparate coalitions of actors that are needed for generating any form of policy traction in fractured governance landscapes. However, the ideological utilization of a concept contributes not only to the reproduction of hegemonic relations but also to a consequent hollowing out of the concept whereby its meaning becomes increasingly diluted, leading to its eventual demise and replacement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302 - 320
JournalInternational Planning Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 201128 Sustainable building
  • 507019 Urban development planning

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