The purpose of this paper is to present an empirical study of experts participating in municipal planning processes and how such experts work to influence the design and outcome of urban planning processes.

The theoretical interest behind this research regards how power is created. The analysis is based on twelve interviews with officials representing different areas of expertise on urban planning in the Stockholm region.

To approach the question of expert influence, Steven Lukes’ typology of three dimensions of power is used and specifically the second dimension – agenda-setting power – which is discussed in terms of what expert issues will be excluded from the public debate within urban planning processes, but also in terms of different ways of presenting and defining problems and solutions that enable certain issues to be included.

In the analysis three organizational mechanisms are identified and discussed as expression of the second dimension of power: use of categorizations that rank; communication of representations and visualizations that rank through highlighting some aspects while hiding others; and engagement of political support through media attention and alliances with citizens.

Through the use of the constructionist approach to power, combined with a focus on power resources beyond economic ones, the analysis contributes specifically to critical planning studies, but at a general level also to discussions about the organization and workings of public sector experts.


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