An examination of the role orientation of planners in Taipei

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Virginia Tech


This research project explores the professional ideology of planners in a new industrialized setting - Taipei,Taiwan. This study seeks to establish whether urban planners in a newly industrializing country (NIC) exhibit consistent sets of values, attitudes and role orientations that parallel those of Western planners. In addition, in an authoritarian party-state such as Taiwan, planning is a top-down process. Development goals are set at the top of the political bureaucracy; therefore, plans are formulated to meet predesigned objectives, especially in terms of economic development. Since economic growth is seen by some as a legitimation device for the existing authoritarian regime in Taiwan, the role of planning vis a vis the partnership between the state and capitalists is worth examining. The data used in this study are drawn from questionnaire surveys of public-sector urban planners working in Taipei city. The survey was conducted between May and August 1988. The sample size of 128 planners was determined based on estimates provided by each departmental head within Taipei Municipal Government. An overall response rate of 69%, and a valid response rate of 66% was achieved.

A prominent pattern that emerged in examining the results of the survey is the strong rational and apolitical orientation of Taipei's planners. The pervasiveness of rational and apolitical leanings among planners is partly a reflection of an authoritarian state the protects its own legitimacy while promoting economic development. The prevalence of apolitical attitudes among planners in top-down decision making environments exacerbates difficulties in the implementation of plans and programs. Hence, planners working with implementation units, and carrying out plans formulated by planning units are more cognizant of the importance of public participation. In addition, they are more skeptical about planning activities in Taipei city than their counterparts working in planning units. In conclusion, it is suggested that although most planners believe in the apolitical and rational nature of planning, planners with formal planning educations tend to recognize the inherently political nature of planning to a greater extent than those without planning educations. Since planning education is obviously one of the determinants in shaping the role and value orientations of planners, especially with respect to their recognition of political influences, planning curricula that better focus on those aspects may be emphasized.