Doomed to informality: Familial versus modern planning in Arab towns in Israel

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Planning systems throughout the world are rooted in the modern, western-oriented worldview and the rationale of liberal nationalism. In this view, society consists of relatively equal and free individuals, operating in a fairly free market, while state intervention in people's lives and in the economy is only required in extreme cases such as market failure, as with urban and regional planning, and is conducted via top-to-bottom regulations. However, whether this outlook is suitable for sociopolitical cultures other than liberalism is questionable. This paper examines the modern planning machinery with respect to traditional, family-based societies, in particular the Arab towns and villages in Israel. It claims that, in addition to the national conflict between Arab citizens and the State of Israel, the embedded tensions between the spatiality of the Arab city and modern planning systems have given rise to the informal, gray urbanism currently typical of Arab towns. The paper analyzes the different planning tools resulting from the two worldviews. The use of a culturally based urban code and mutual agreements between interested parties form central planning instruments in familial societies, while administrative planning and regulation are central to modern traditions. Based on this analysis, the paper offers a framework for overcoming existing tensions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-186
Number of pages17
JournalPlanning Theory and Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Arab towns
  • bottom-up planning
  • familial-based planning
  • gray urbanism
  • informality
  • self-planning

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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