Agency and Structure in Urban and Regional Planning: An Illustrative Overview and Future Research Agenda

Eva Purkarthofer*, Dominic Stead

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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There is extensive literature on the agency of actors in urban and regional planning which draws on a wide range of theoretical lenses and concepts. One of the recurring themes is the relationship between agency and structure—the mutual interdependence between individual actions and collective institutions, rules, and norms. This article provides a narrative overview of the wide range of literature on agency and structure in relation to spatial planning clustered around six interrelated themes: institutions, discretion, pragmatism, networks, leadership, and emotions. It identifies new avenues for research, paying particular attention to empirical, scalar, and methodological issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-587
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Planning Literature
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • actor
  • discretion
  • emotion
  • institution
  • leadership
  • methods
  • network
  • scale
  • structure

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