A Morphogenetic Approach to Conflict in Spatial Governance


  • Prathiwi Putri University of Kassel


critical realism, conflict and insurgency, margaret archer, the political, Global South




Critical realist approaches to structure and agency have their place within the trajectory of planning literature; some scholars explicitly mobilise the propositions (e.g., Moulaert et al., 2016; Næss et al., 2018; Xue, 2022) or inexplicitly show the influences in their works (to mention a few Tasan-Kok, 2008; Metzger, 2013; Oosterlynck & González, 2013; Sager, 2018). Surely, conflict (and power) is a big theme in the literature and many scholars working on the theme reflect some critical realist perspectives (see for example in these edited books Gualini, 2015b; Metzger et al., 2015).

This article offers a critical realist perspective on conflict, and mobilises especially Margaret Archer’s morphogenetic theory that was born from her dissatisfaction with the classic problems of the binary dichotomy of structure and agency. Informed by her accounts for stratified structure and agency, it conceptualises conflict beyond agential conflict, which is often perceived at the level of event.

Focusing on Archer’s notions of corporate vested interest and strategic role, the author seeks to engage with conversations in planning theory to further argue for ‘space of dissensus’ as ‘space enacting the political’ (Dikeç, 2005; Gualini, 2015a). She hopes to provide an instructive framework to account for real potential conflicts (systemic and social or inter-agential) in theorising the role of insurgencies in planning and development in the Global South (see also Roy, 2005; Miraftab & Wills, 2005; Watson, 2014). The conceptual discussions are made grounded with the case of spatial conflicts in Jakarta, involving stories about riparian kampung communities who have been evicted from the main river basin of the metropolitan city.


Dikeç, M. (2005). Space, Politics, and the Political. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 23(2), 171–188. https://doi.org/10.1068/d364t

Gualini, E. (2015a). Conflict in the City: Democratic, Emancipatory-and Transformative? In Search of the Political in Planning Conflicts. In E. Gualini (Ed.), RTPI library series. Planning and Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Contentious Urban Developments. Routledge.

Miraftab, F., & Wills, S. (2005). Insurgency and Spaces of Active Citizenship: The Story of Western Cape Anti-eviction Campaign in South Africa. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 25(2), 200–217.

Roy, A. (2005). Urban Informality: Toward an Epistemology of Planning. Journal of the American Planning Association, 71(2), 147–158. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944360508976689

Watson, V. (2014). Co-production and collaboration in planning – The difference. Planning Theory & Practice, 15(1), 62–76. https://doi.org/10.1080/14649357.2013.866266