Views On How Social Order Is Produced Social Policy Essay

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Compare and contrast two views of how social order is produced in public spaces.

Social scientists appreciate there are many factors to consider in order to understand how social order is made and remade with social change being intrinsic to the process. It is something that is woven into everyone's actions on a daily basis. Social order is made using a combination of things like imagination, practices, fitting people and things together, and ideas about the past and the future (Silva, 2009, p.311).This assignment will examine how social order is produced using two case studies which focus on approaches to traffic governance. The case studies consist of the Buchanan Report and Monderman's thesis which both look at the link between shared public space and how the relationship between people and traffic can create order.

The first case study is the Buchanan report which was very influential in the 1960's and commissioned by the UK government. This report was all about the need of humans to live with motor vehicles (Silva, 2009, p.327).The key theory of the report was to create a system that would segregate ‘rooms' which were used for shopping, leisure and working from corridors for where the traffic would go to, these isolated areas were referred to as ‘environmental units'. Due to the increase in car ownership at the time, Buchanan suggested that for civility to be created either the use of cars would have to be greatly reduced or the towns would have to be reconstructed to hold more vehicles. Owing to the costs involved in implementing the second choice, the restriction of car use became the chosen vision for ordering space (Silva, 2009, p.328). Buchanan's approach to social order is a Modernist one, which emphasizes uniformity and standardizations, with its core values of social order being mobility and car ownership, as it was viewed as a symbol of material success. He viewed the role of authority as one of setting and implementing rules that made sure of the safety of citizens (Online Activity 22, accessed April 2011).

The second case study is the Monderman thesis, devised by a Dutch traffic safety officer which was based on the idea of ‘shared space' and derived from the principle of the ‘naked street' in the 1980's (Silva, 2009, p.325).The main proposal of the thesis was that to improve road safety it was best to do away with roadside markings and warnings. This practise is known as ‘psychological traffic calming'. Once all of the street furniture was removed, the aim was for the motorists and pedestrians to work together to use the road. Monderman's concept of the ‘naked street' was built on the idea that natural interactions between drivers and pedestrians created a more civilised environment then that achieved by the segregation of cars and pedestrians (Silva, 2009, p.333). Monderman's approach to social order is viewed as a Flexible approach that stresses the absence of rules, self management and fluidity. It considers the core values of social order as those of co-operation and participation, with the role of authority being to enable and facilitate interactions that build social and communal relations (Online Activity 22, accessed April, 2011).

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When the two approaches are examined we see that despite them both addressing similar questions they produced very different ideas for solving the problems related to managing traffic. Buchanan saw public space as over populated with cars and vehicles that were viewed as possessing a threat to others, whereas Monderman viewed public space as being shared. He also considered that roads were in fact a social space that allowed for interaction along with them contributing to communities (Online Activity 22, accessed April 2011).They both had different ideas as to what should be implicated with their views such as Buchanan suggested public spaces were designed specifically for the purpose of segregation, and that traffic is restricted by rules and physical boundaries. Yet, Monderman's view was one that said road users should be free to negotiate the use of space and accept responsibility for their own actions (Staples et al., 2009).

As for how they viewed that traffic should be managed, they were in total contrast with each other. Buchanan said that it was through governance with rules set by authorities, along with street furniture such as traffic lights, road markings, warning signs, speed bumps, etc. On the other hand Monderman suggested that road users should exercise self-management by ‘psychological traffic calming' with no visible signs and his ‘naked street' concept to be used (Online Activity 22, accessed April 2011).

The kinds of evidence available to support the two approaches varies, such as for Buchanan's approach there is statistical data such as Table 1 ( Silva, 2009, p.326) which looks at the increase of road traffic between 1949 and 2006, and clearly shows that within the 57 year period, all motor vehicle types grew by at least ten times. This supports Buchanan's report in which he stated that public space was dominated by vehicles.

Nevertheless, the evidence in favour of Monderman's thesis was based on studies of engineering and psychology, which revealed how interactions within public space occur. An example of this can be seen in the 1989 Drachten experiment, which applied Monderman's ides of ‘shared space' to a town of 43,000 people in the Netherlands (Silva, 2009, p.334). Monderman's original idea was to erase the white lines and get rid of the lights because ‘If you treat drivers like zombies, they'll behave like zombies'. The Drachten experiment suggested that there was merit to the original idea as it showed that once motorists had to think for themselves not blindly follow instructions, the roads became a safer place, along with drivers becoming more aware, alert and cautious (Silva, 2009, p. 335).

It's fascinating to note that the types of individual's the two approaches are modelled on are total contrasts. The Buchanan model assumes that a person is individualistic, conforms to rules, along with a state that solves problems and looks after individual behaviour (Silva, 2009, p.341). Whereas, Monderman's shared space approach makes the assumption that a person is obliging, can afford to be exposed to unpredicted situations and a state that does not set rules but enables interactions between individuals.

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It's saying that ordinary people become experts at using shared space and the creation of social order is an ongoing process (Silva, 2009, p.341). Furthermore, one can see a link between Monderman's approach to ‘shared space' with Goffman's view of the centrality of interaction, in which he suggested that it's the foundation for social order (Silva, 2009, p.343).

Despite the differences between the two approaches of Buchanan and Monderman, there are in fact some common ideas. Clearly, they both seem to focus on improving social life through space design, through the application of materials along with trying to enforce human conduct. In addition, they both devised zoning technology (different areas for different actions) and street furniture to fit diverse behaviour. Moreover, they embraced a rational approach, which was objective and helped to achieve the increase of security for the individual. Finally, they both appeared as and produced their own authority through the evidence used to make their claims appear factual and truthful in the process of authorising social order (Silva, 2009, p.346).

Monderman's approach despite not seeming so popular  has received credibility with many countries including the UK, where experiments are going to be implemented using the ‘shared space' model. Monderman's philosophy serves as a model for inspiration and offers practical support along with challenging planning and direction (Silva, 2009, p.337).

Buchanan's approach seems to be the most favoured and possibly universally excepted, this could largely be due to the timing of his ideas, despite some controversy the appeal to planners and the idea of solutions at the time were too strong not to be used (Silva, 2009, p.331). After the mid 1960's, many towns were built for vehicles on the principle of segregation, even sometimes segregating vehicles and people. In fact, many people chose to use this template of segregation including places like Milton Keynes and it has had a major influence on road design and the use of public space for almost 50 years. However, as with any good idea there was criticism. It was reported that the method of ‘environmental units' led to creation of some housing layouts becoming physically isolated, such as Hulme in Manchester and Castle Vale in Birmingham (Silva, 2009, p.331).

Finally, it is clear to see how social order is made and remade and how it is produced in public spaces is a complex question to which there is no distinct answer. The case studies of Buchanan and Monderman are both relevant as they look at different ways of identifying problems and differing ideas on social organisation for dealing with traffic management. More importantly their ideas help to provide us with insights into unique models of social order such as the Modernist and Flexible approach. As a result when they are compared and contrasted, there are similarities and differences between them, along with positives and negatives.