WorkPad: Some early questions . . .

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Lyon, 28 July 2014

This little “workpad” is a corner of this new site where we struggle in public with some of the important defining questions. Since if we are unable to ask the right questions, how can we ever hope to find meaningful answers. And if not “answers” per se, at least some useful hints as to to get us and others moving in the right and much needed directions.

Now some early questions the author is asking himself (and you) this morning.  And if you wish follow the   latest dialogue on these points, we invite you to come back from time to time and see how al this progressing.

  1. What is a General Theory?
  2. Why we need a “The General Theory of Sustainable Transport in Cities” . . . (Or perhaps more accurately a “General Theory for Sustainable Transport, Sustainable Cities and Sustainable Lives”?)
  3. Is it possible? Useful?
  4. Why Toward a General Theory . . . ?
  5. How can we in some way (with this collaborative self-organized group project) help to advance this cause?

To which Friso Metz of KvPP on 30/7/14 has added:

6.  What’s the purpose?
7.  Which people does it address?
8.  What should these people do/ think different?
9.  What product might fit this purpose best?

 As you can see have our work cut out.  Stay tuned

# # #

What about this as a first cut response to the first question?

A General Theory is a broad-reaching explanatory framework which permits us to examine and to an extent to understand a targeted class of complex real-world phenomena and relationships which in  life may be characterized by extensive variations in terms of their content and behavior.

As to # 3:

Why Toward . . . ? Simply because the expectation of this project – both the book and the collaborative process behind it  — is not so much for the author to uncover the full General Theory in completed unquestionable pristine form — a bit like the full-formed Athena a leaping with a shout out of Zeus’s noble head — but rather that through the work and process set out here, some useful progress will be made in the right direction in the months ahead.  Now this is not to say that the author renounces the idea of coming up with a strong first cut of the General Theory in  the book currently underway, but what is more important here than one more fat book with an author’s  name on it, is to advance the idea of a coherent consistent context for planning and policy, one way or another.  A quiet nudge  excellence.

And this provisionally to # 7,

Intended readers: National and local government. Planners and policy makers. Teachers, researchers and students. Economists, urbanists and social scientists. Earth scientists and public health. Operators, suppliers and technology sources looking for new places in the supply chain.. Civil society and the media. Concerned citizens.

Work continues.

# # #

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as a development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist and international sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport - https://worldstreets.wordpress.com . | Britton online: https://goo.gl/9CJXTh

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5 thoughts on “WorkPad: Some early questions . . .

  1. What about this as a first cut response to the first question?


    A general theory is a broad-reaching explanatory framework which permits us to examine and to an extent to understand a targeted class of complex real-world phenomena and relationships which in in life may be characterized by extensive variations in terms of their contents and behavior.

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  2. Friso Metz of the notable Dutch transport/environment thinktank KpVV, notes that the draft as it presently stands does not yet answer the following key questions:

    – What’s the purpose?
    – Which people does it address?
    – What should these people do/ think different?
    – What product might fit this purpose best?

    And I am not about to argue with that. Stay tuned.

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  3. Pingback: Mission Statement (in process) | Toward a General Theory of Transport in Cities

  4. In answer to the second of the above questions: Why we need a General Theory of Transport in Cities

    The short provisional answer is because we need some form of agreed common base in order to ensure that all of the innumerable bits and pieces of transport policy and practice in cities are developed within a comprehensive, consistent disciplined framework, which is rarely the case today.

    Transport-related policy and planning decisions are being made in most cities today on an incredibly, and indeed unacceptably, ad hoc manner. Not only are many of these policy and investment decisions devastatingly naïve, but all too often they lead to counterproductive results.

    Once we have in place a well thought-out and respected “General Theory of Sustainable Transport, Sustainable Cities and Sustainable Lives”, we will be well-equipped to ward off the latest bright ideas of politicians or aggressive suppliers who show up with promises and proposals which may make some mouths’ water but which will very definitely not line up with the strong discipline that is absolutely essential if we are to achieve our ambitious underlying policy objectives.

    (More and better to follow here as the project advances)

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  5. As to # 3:

    Why Toward . . . ? Simply because the expectation of this project – both the book and the collaborative process behind it — is not so much for the author to uncover the full General Theory in completed unquestionable pristine form — a bit like the full-formed Athena a leaping with a shout out of Zeus’s noble head — but rather that through the work and process set out here, some useful progress will be made in the right direction in the months ahead. Now this is not to say that the author renounces the idea of coming up with a strong first cut of the General Theory in the book currently underway, but what is more important here than one more fat book with an author’s name on it, is to advance the idea of a coherent consistent context for planning and policy, one way or another. A quiet nudge excellence.

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