Creating the city step-by-step: When incremental development strategies meet institutions

Lilian J. van Karnenbeek

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


At the turn of the 21st century, a wave of interest in incrementalism swept over the field of planning practice, which further gained momentum and shaped the emergence of a ‘new’ strategy for urban development projects. Broadly defined, the logic of incrementalism refers to a process in which multiple actors take small steps that can be adapted or changed according to previous steps without reaching ‘right’ solutions. Despite the growing enthusiasm in the planning sector for this incremental logic, I did not want to uncritically accept its potential as a strategy. Therefore, I explore in this dissertation whether incremental logic makes sense in strategy-making by presenting a critical reflexive perspective. I adopt this critical reflexive perspective by asking whether incremental development strategies are ‘effective’. By effective, I mean whether the strategy has the capacity to build structures in which collective action can emerge. The assumption in this dissertation is that it is only possible to assess whether incremental development strategies can lead to collective action when we understand how its purposive action relates to institutional arrangements. Therefore, I use institutional theory as a theoretical lens. Empirically, this dissertation shows how purposive actions relate to institutions in urban development projects that adopt an incremental strategy in Amsterdam, Almere and Lyon.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Mol, Arthur, Promotor
  • Salet, W.G.M., Promotor, External person
  • Janssen-Jansen, L.B., Promotor
  • Majoor, S.J.H., Co-promotor, External person
Award date15 Dec 2020
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463955102
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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