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Can and should local development policy evaluation address a wider set of criteria than heretofore considered? Interestingly, both Knudsen (1997 [this issue]) and Smoke (1997 [this issue]) base their responses to our question on dimensions and aspects of planning, not of evaluation. That is not to say one exists without the other. Rather, in reading their comments, one might infer that all that is wanting is for planners to be more firmly grounded in the theories that inform us about our society, and for planning and policy initiatives to be more aware of the conditions and constraints confronted in the process of development. On the face of it, there is little with which to argue in these articles; at the same time, both fall prey to the same limitations we argue are inherent in evaluation (and planning) as currently practiced.
Planning and evaluation exist in, and their applications derive from, an embedded theory of capitalism. These practices develop uncritically and are based on taken-for-granted assumptions, which are not visible and, therefore, not readily available for critical inspection. The problem with the responses by Knudsen (1997) and Smoke (1997) is that they remain within that framework and so are restricted to working with those assumptions in place. Planning and evaluation are, after all, political as well as technical exercises insofar as the choice of policy goals, programmatic instruments, and evaluation criteria are not objectively correct but determined by existing ideological and political realities.
We do not resort once again to simple claims that the problem lies in mistaken assumptions about value-free research, as Smoke (1997) implies. Rather, even if we as practitioners know theoretical frames are not value free, we still must critically examine how those values inform the way we think about planning and evaluation. The link between values and evaluation is, essentially, the valuation assigned to those values. Often, as Smoke also points out, we have ways to place a valuation on things we value, even if they are qualitative and not quantitative. Perversely, we also choose (consciously and unconsciously) not to recognize the value of things for which we have trouble assigning a valuation. How, for example, can policy evaluators place a valuation on fostering informal employment networks or the degree to which the homeless have a say in the construction of housing units--and do they try? The central concerns for us remain why this should happen, how it affects outcomes of policy evaluation, and what we should or can do about it.
Knudsen's (1997) comments raise questions about the overall framework within which planners envision their craft, so let us address these first. Correctly, Knudsen points out there are many theories that try to explain why and how our capitalist society functions. What they all have in common is that they are descriptive of capitalism as a system--more concerned with explanation than with prediction (with the possible exception of long-wave theories). Ideas about the new …