Among the thorniest dilemmas stemming transformative planning practice in the context of American cities is the problem of race. While “just city” and neo-pragmatist perspectives have recently theorized progressive policy and planning efforts to create viable alternatives to the dominant neoliberal urban and local economic development model, they have paid less attention to the relationship between race, urban political economy, and transformative planning. This article seeks to bridge this gap by elaborating a conception of race that incorporates W.E.B. DuBois’ notion of “double consciousness” with neo-pragmatist planning perspectives to illuminate potential synergies between the situated perspectives of socially marginalized groups and differentially situated, resourced, and abled allies in illuminating systemic problems and directing deeper modes of urban policy and planning recourse. Drawing from two empirical cases, it examines how progressive urban coalitions might use race as a diagnostic and dialogic tool in undertaking provisional and contextual inquiry and praxis in the urban economic sphere toward realization of the “just city.”
The concepts utopia, scenario, and plan offer important ways to envision the future of place. Utopia describes the perfect, complete place. Scenario compares good alternative stories. Plans offer useful provisional intentions. All three help us imagine how future consequences of select actions might influence current expectations and hopes. I argue that pragmatism can integrate all three along a continuum from holistic inclusive to selective incremental. Utopia dramatizes emotional attachments to the daily details of a purposeful way of life for some future imagined place. Scenario describes the confluence of narrative and explanation, story and cause as coherent testable accounts of relevant consequences for plausible futures. Plan describes how we compose and compare alternatives to inform practical intentions for choices and decisions for immediate problems we currently face. Framing the three concepts pragmatically avoids the contrast between utopian rupture and narrative continuity by treating both as complementary aspects of a practical imagination. Composing plans requires adaptive attention to specific features of people and place susceptible to purposeful change.