Combining deliberative governance theory and discourse analysis to understand the deliberative incompleteness of centrally formulated plans

I.M. Buizer, A. Van Herzele

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21 Citations (Scopus)


In the past few decades governments in Western European countries have put increasing efforts into creating new green and forest areas in and around cities. At first sight, these centrally formulated plans seem to run counter to the current trend towards less central steering and more participation (and deliberation). However, closer scrutiny in two cases of green structure planning in the Netherlands and Flanders – Balij-Biesland forest and Park forest Ghent – reveals that we are facing a seemingly contradictory image of central steering on the one hand and openness to various actors and ideas on the other. This paper takes a closer look at this ambivalent situation using the two theoretical perspectives of deliberative governance and a discourse analysis. Although the green structure planning exercises did not intentionally have a deliberative character, we argue that such a perspective can and should be put on situations where new local coalitions challenge the centrally formulated plans, and try to start deliberations about their ideas In order to become more specific about the ‘deliberative incompleteness’ of the two Flemish and Dutch processes, a discourse-analytical focal point needs to be taken as well. Normatively, the paper first addresses the diversity of viewpoints and openness to preference shifts in the Dutch and the Flemish cases. It concludes that in the course of both processes, a high diversity of viewpoints surfaced, as well as a certain degree of openness to preference shifts. When the two processes are subjected to discourse analysis, it becomes evident however that the preference shifts occurring as a result of the input of a greater diversity of viewpoints did not bring about changes in some vital discursive practices that had been connected to the green structure planning and implementation processes. It was suggested, therefore, that combining the two theoretical perspectives gives a good insight into ‘deliberative incompleteness’ and highlights persistent institutional obstacles to come to more inclusive green structures in urbanized areas
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-101
JournalForest Policy and Economics
Issue numberMarch
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • public deliberation
  • democratic-theory
  • civil-society
  • participation
  • science
  • forests


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