Contradictory Views on Growth, (article, 2004)

This piece was my one peer-reviewed journal article while I was in academia. It was a modest side project to my dissertation research. I wrote it to work through the paradox I encountered while interviewing people active in land use: over the course of an interview (lasting, on average, maybe 45 minutes), they would offer value judgments about growth that would contradict each other.To me, those contradictions were the heart of this piece, but I had a hard time getting that part to remain in the printed form.

It appeared in the Journal of Urban Affairs 26(5): 611–622.

The pdf of the full text can be found here.

A Growth Machine’s Plan B: Legitimating Development When the Value-free Growth Ideology is Under Fire


Growth machine theory portrays the promotion and legitimation of urban development strictly in terms of the value-free growth ideology—the claim that growth benefits everyone, that it is a collective good. Based on an analysis of planning documents, newspapers, interviews, and public meetings in San Diego, California, this research argues that the persuasiveness of the value-free growth ideology is highly variable. Pro-growth elites bolster the ideology with a range of secondary arguments when the costs of growth are rising. The way growth is both supported and criticized by the same people suggests that they have more fluid and contradictory relationships to urban growth than machine theory’s dichotomy of ‘‘the machine versus residents’’ implies. This inconsistency can work to the advantage of pro-growth elites.