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Social Planning for England

ISSUE:  Summer 1945

Creative Demobilisation, Volume I, Principles of National Planning, By E. A. Gutkind. Volume II, Case Studies in National Planning, Edited by E. A. Gutkind. Oxford University Press. $12.00.

Hansen’s faith in the Food and Agriculture Organization, however, verges on the Utopian. Investigation and research are not real solutions for agricultural overproduction and the land hunger of many nationals. It is true that the former difficulty will be greatly relieved by the development of domestic full-employment programs in the countries involved. But one becomes suspicious toward the end of the book of the faith and simplicity inherent in the repetition of this one solution, important though it may be. One is also sceptical of his confidence in the ILO and is inclined to discount the great role he ascribes to it in bringing about collective bargaining and social security in leading nations after the last war. Greater emphasis upon the potentialities of the new Economic and Social Council would have been preferable.

In summary, Professor Hansen has written a clear and optimistic exposition of postwar international problems and plans. He has courageously advocated domestic full employment as the basis of peace and prosperity. At points his optimism carries him beyond realism, but without seriously impairing the general truth and effectiveness of his presentation.

The order to cease firing in Europe gives a more immediate interest to “Creative Demobilisation,” a two-volume study of the principles and programs of national planning by E. A. Gutkind and his English associates. To Gutkind, demobilization and national planning are indivisible. If the process is to be creative, he feels that no public works should be carried out at the time of demobilizn-tion which are not part of a national plan. This may be illustrated in many fields, but the problem of rehousing the British people is most notable. Thousands upon thousands of houses must be built for bombed-out populations in a great combined public and private movement. In many instances the blitz of war has wiped out the blight of slums, and England has the chance to rebuild in terms of open spaces and urban reorganization. Gutkind quotes with qualified approval Herbert Read’s ringing sentences written during the war: “When Hitler has finished bombing our cities, let the demolition squads complete the good work, Then let us go out into the wide open spaces and build anew!”

While Gutkind and his associates are not such extreme advocates of decentralization, they explore at every point the possibility of new patterns of settlement. The survey covers many aspects of agriculture and industry, of town and country, integrated around the settlement of population in relation to education, health, recreation, and social relationships. Physical planning is for social needs, and the point is made that industrial planning cannot be separated from social planning. In the main, Gutkind arrives at patterns of settlement similar to those pictured by advocates of industrial decentralization and dispersal in this country, The old over-concentrated city in this view is to be loosened up by the driving in of “green wedges” resulting in a considerable loss of dwelling space. This lost space can be replaced either by decentralization within the direct sphere of influence of the city, creating satellites, or by dispersal beyond the area, thereby forming new communities or developing existing ones.

If this volume on principles does not sound like the Merrie England we once knew, those who read Volume II are in for a greater shock. It contains interesting plans and case studies from such different authorities as the town planning officer of Bath, the county planning officer of Gloucestershire, the planning officer for Dorset, the president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and assorted university professors of geography, economics, et cetera. In addition to sections on agriculture, industry, and decentralization, there are plans for the reconstruction of Wales and its ill-balanced mining villages, for rural Scotland, for the development of a national coastal park in North Cornwall. If this is not surprising enough, there are competent technical proposals for electrical planning for Great Britain, the electrification of her railways as well as memoranda on the reconstruction of towns, the development of a new town, and the redistribution of settlement and of population. These are advanced as interpretations or illustrations of the general approach to national planning.

Social planning as envisaged in these studies apparently stands at some half-way point between national planning as practiced in the Soviet Union and federal-state planning as undertaken during the early New Deal. It assumes the programs of full employment and security associated in this country with the name of Sir William Beveridge and thence proceeds to the reconstruction of the social needs and amenities of English life. It is not safe to assume that in their decisions the English people will go as far as our authors seem at times to presume. Nevertheless, it is hardly possible that we have realized the extent to which the basic destruction and dislocations visited upon the English may have changed their adherence to previous patterns of housing and population distribution. It will be understood, however, that the practical working out of decentralization and dispersal in crowded England means something entirely different than in the broad and open spaces of the North American continent. In the basic values involved, admittedly the English have gone much further toward the acceptance of a modified collectivism with the trend toward over-all planning that it implies. Any reader of these volumes will be impressed with the extent to which responsible local authorities are willing to adjust their plans for change to the national plan yet to be developed.


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