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Is Latours Due Process Feasible (Paper Nod 2008)

Is Latours Due Process Feasible (Paper Nod 2008)

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Published by Ritske Dankert

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Published by: Ritske Dankert on Mar 14, 2012
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Is Latour’s due process feasible? The case of housing management strategy implementation.Drs. Ing. Ritske Dankert,
Delft University of Technology
Due to a change in regulations in the 1990s, Dutch housing associations have become much moreindependent from government policies. As a result they have to formulate their own strategicgoals on how to deal with their properties. The aim of this paper is to investigate whether BrunoLatour's due process model can be of help to housing associations implementing their strategies.In his
Political Ecology
, Latour (2004) has presented the due process model as a model throughwhich new plans or ideas can be realised in society. In the case of housing management, measuresfrom the management strategy should be implemented. Following McMaster, Vidgen & Wastell(1998), I will apply the due process retrospectively. To this end, a case study was conducted at aDutch housing association.In the next section, the due process model will be introduced. I will then explain the researchmethod and the projects at Groenveld Wonen (fictitious name) that were selected for the casestudy. I will then progress to compare the due process model with the actual strategyimplementation at the housing association before finally, drawing some conclusions from thiscomparison.
Actor network theory and the due process model
Following actor network theory (ANT), all human and non-human entities can be reformulated interms of a network of actants that together make up the final result of such an entity (Latour,2005; Law, 1992). For example, a building is a result of the actants (e.g. the project manager,financial resources, contractor, building materials, etc.) that together form a network. In terms of ANT this network is called an actant-network. If a housing association wants to establish abuilding, it has to translate other actants in order to make them part of the actant-network of thebuilding. Callon & Latour (1981, p.279) define translation as:…all the negotiations, intrigues, calculations, acts of persuasion and violence, thanks towhich an actor or force takes, or causes to be conferred on itself, authority to speak or act onbehalf of another actor or force; ‘Our interests are the same’, ‘do what I want’, ‘you cannotsucceed without me’.Through translation, actants are displaced and thus changed, in order to become part of the actant-network (Callon, 1986).The due process model of Latour (2004) may be of help for housing associations to guide theirtranslation efforts building the actant-network. Latour (2004) uses the term ‘due process’ toindicate the normative program of actor network theory. The due process model consists of fourgeneral rules. The first general rule of Latour (2004) is about perplexity, “You shall not simplifythe number of [potential actant-networks] to be taken into account in the discussion.” This rule isabout the need to give a new candidate for existence some space to introduce itself. A newpotential actant-network should not be instituted or neglected too soon. Perplexity is able to setlegitimacy for a new candidate for existence. The second general rule deals with consultationabout the characteristics of the new actant-network (Latour, 2004). Consultation is merely aboutexplicating the different viewpoints. Discussion about how different viewpoints can live together
is not important yet. Latour (2004) formulates this general rule as follows, “You shall make clearthat the number of voices that participate in the articulation of [potential actant-networks] is notarbitrarily short-circuited.” (Latour 2004:109). Hierarchy, the third rule, is about fitting the newactant-network into existing structures. Latour (2004) formulates this again in the form of ageneral rule, “You shall discuss the compatibility of new [potential actant-networks] with [theexisting structures], in such a way as to maintain them all in the same common world that willgive them their legitimate place.” (Latour 2004:109). Finally, the fourth general rule of Latour isabout the institution of agreements, “Once the [actant-networks] have been instituted, you shallno longer question their legitimate presence at the heart of collective life.”(Latour, 2004, 109)The implication of this is that agreements that have been made during the phase of hierarchy haveto be fulfilled.
Research design
To see how the due process model can be useful in relation to the everyday practice of housingassociations implementing their strategies, a case study was conducted at Groenveld Wonen, ahousing association in the Netherlands. Four projects that were implemented during the period1999 – 2007 were studied. Groenveld Wonen owns about 2000 dwellings. The organization hada formal housing management strategy that had been established in 1999. Three of the projects inthis study emerged from the 1999 strategy. Another project was initiated by the localgovernment.The first phase of the case study focused on the documents; from the archives of the housingassociation all kinds of documents were retrieved. The second phase of the case study dealt within-depth interviews with respondents from different organizations involved. The third phase of the research focused on the analysis of the data from the previous phases. The analysis consistsof two steps. First, the information from the documents and the interviews was organized in achronological order and confirmed by the respondents (Dankert, 2007). In the second section of this paper I will compare these results with the due process model.
The case of Groenveld Wonen
Groenveld Wonen set up a housing management strategy in 1999. The most important goal onthe strategic level was the focus on the construction of elderly housing. Another importantstatement in the policy document was on the status of the document
the housing managementstrategy was considered a dynamic policy. In the 1999 strategy, the position was adopted thatdiscussions with stakeholders and new developments could lead to a change in plans. In the casestudy, four concrete projects were taken into account. The first project was the renovation of three blocks of apartments for the elderly. (This project will be referred to as the ‘renovationproject.’) The second project was the plan to build new apartments for the elderly in a districtthat did not have much decent housing for the elderly. (This project will be referred to as the ‘newbuilt dwellings project.’) The third project was about measures implemented through voidrepairs. The last project was the building of thirty new apartments, fifteen of which weredesigned especially for disabled people. (This project will be referred to as the ‘specially adaptedapartments project’).
Testing the due process model retrospectively
In this section the general rules extracted from the work of Latour will be confronted with theimplementation of the housing management strategy at Groenveld Wonen through the fourprojects introduced in the last section.
At the ‘renovation project’, the legitimacy for the project was established in the housingmanagement strategy plan by a number of figures on the characteristics of the building and itspopularity among people looking for a house. It was also supported by the trend of greaterdemand for elderly housing. Among the employees of the housing association, the housingmanagement strategy plan in itself was enough to establish legitimacy. However, legitimacy hadto be established not only within the organization of the housing association, but also amongother parts of the actant-network. This was more problematic: with the municipality there was noagreement on basic ideas about housing policy, whereas the tenants at the renovation project firsthad to choose delegates to speak for them.From the first general rule of the due process model, it can be concluded that the housingassociation had a number of instruments to establish legitimacy for a plan from the housingmanagement strategy. Putting the housing management strategy on paper was a good start:embedding the plans inside the organization. However, to establish legitimacy outside thehousing associations, agreements had to be reached. In this case, not many such agreementscould be found; a potential cause of trouble as the project progressed, weakening the connectionof one or more actants to the housing association. If such a connection broke down, it might nothave been possible to implement the project in the way it was intended.
None of the projects allow the general rule of consultation to be easily addressed. The actantsinvolved in the projects were not explicitly asked to explicate their views on the projects.However, in a more subtle way, their views were made evident. The architect, for example, madedrawings of the floor plan; in that way he made very clear what he wanted to achieve with theprojects. However, in most cases views were not this explicit; something which caused trouble inlater phases of the projects. During the ‘renovation project’ and the ‘specially adaptedapartments’ project, the Projects and Services Departments did not have the same expectationsabout the completion of the projects and a lack of communication between the two departmentsmeant that problems were not solved promptly. Also in other phases of the projectcommunication problems arose. For example at the ‘renovation project’, expectations about theamount of daylight in the apartments were not made clear. This was important as the municipalityhad to test the plan against the rules about levels of daylight. Only after unsuccessful trials of hierarchy, did the municipality and the housing association get back to consultation to make theirviews more explicit.From the second general rule of the due process model it becomes clear that the housingassociation should connect to a range of different organizations. Sometimes explicating the viewson the project was done ‘automatically’, through mechanisms that were taken for granted by the

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