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Flyvbjerg, Bent 1952-

FLYVBJERG, Bent 1952-

PERSONAL:

Born December 10, 1952, in Aarhus, Denmark; son of Thorkild and Regina. Education: Aarhaus University, M.S.c., 1979, Ph.D., 1985; Aalborg University, Dr.Techn., 1991.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Aalborg University, Department of Development and Planning, Fibigerstraede 11, 9220 Aalborg, Denmark.

CAREER:

Development and planning educator, consultant, and author. Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark, professor of planning. Two-time visiting Fulbright scholar in the United States; European University Institute, Florence, Italy, visiting fellow.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Knighthood of the Order of the Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, 2002.

WRITINGS:

Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1998.

Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Nils Bruzelius and Werner Rothengatter) Mega-projects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Author of various scholarly articles in English and Danish; work has been translated into Albanian, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Thai.

SIDELIGHTS:

Bent Flyvbjerg is a professor and researcher in the field of urban geography and planning, with a focus on the relationship between power and rationality in urban policy and planning, particularly megaprojects. Flyvbjerg's books combine both theory and research. As the title suggests, Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice is a case study of how democracy actually functions in practical situations. Flyvbjerg's theories draw on the work of Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and Foucault, but continue to place democracy in a modern political context. The effect, according to Theoria contributor Roger Deacon, is "a better, less idealistic and more strategically useful understanding of modern democracy, its strengths and weaknesses."

Using Aalborg, Denmark, as an example, Flyvbjerg, in Rationality and Power, follows the progress of a municipal project designed to ease the environmental, social, and economic concerns resulting from the steady increase in the number of cars in the city. Only four people attend the initial project meeting: the city engineer, city planner, architect, and the director of the city bus company. Five years later, very little of the project has been completed and numerous other groups have become involved, including police, political parties, government agencies, and the media. In Flyvbjerg's case study, the more rational choices are often overturned by any opposition with greater power. Deacon remarked, "already it is apparent that democracy in Aalborg depends as much, if not more, upon the capability of specific relations of power, as much in opposition to as in conjunction with rational authority and technical expertise." Niraj Verma, writing in the Journal of the American Planning Association, stated, Rationality and Power "is unusual in its details and represents well crafted archival work." Times Literary Supplement reviewer Glen Newey remarked, "Flyvberg's genius lies in his unfailing eye for banality, and for discerning the none too invisible hand of power behind it."

In Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again, Flyvbjerg argues that social science cannot be considered similar to natural science in that it does not provide predictable, logical theory that can be applied consistently to a diverse set of problems. Instead, he offers Aristotle's theory that distinguishes between analytical, technical, and practical wisdom, suggesting social science provides answers that fall into the final category. Christopher G. A. Bryant, in a Canadian Journal of Sociology review, commented, "Flyvbjerg's argument is nothing like as novel as he seems to think it is, but how he came to make it is interesting and the way in which he makes it is both distinctive and thought provoking." Australian Journal of Political Science contributor Paul Healy called the book "a well-articulated philosophically grounded defense, reinforced by lifeworld examples, of the inevitable involvement of both values and power relations in the constitution of social reality, and of the potential impotence of social research." Reviewing the book in Science, Clifford Geertz commented that "Flyvberg has been one of the leading figures in the now widespread movement against the idea that the social sciences should model themselves on the natural ones." Geertz concluded that Making Social Science Matter was a "suggestive, well-written little book."

Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition, written with Nils Bruzelius and Werner Rothengatter, recounts the history of multiple major construction projects worldwide, including the Eurotunnel connecting England and France, the Sydney Opera House, and Denver International Airport. The unifying factors for these types of projects are a tendency to go severely over schedule and budget, as well as a finished product that often fails to meet expectations. Flyvbjerg and his colleagues argue that this syndrome has nothing to do with human error or a refusal to learn from past mistakes. Rather, it stems from the overly optimistic quotes and deadlines, as well as disregard for environmental considerations, that are generated in an effort to get a project approved. New Scientist reviewer Fred Pearce wrote, "Bent Flyvbjerg's damning analysis concentrates on a series of financial nightmares that should bring even the most casual reader out in a sweat."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Acta Sociologica, April, 2002, Volume 45, issue 1, Ingolfur V. Gislason, review of Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again, p. 67.

American Anthropologist, March, 2000, Volume 102, issue 1, Davydd Greenwood, review of Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice, p. 189.

Architectural Record, November, 2003, Volume 191, issue 11, Alex Marshall, review of Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition.

Australian, September 5, 2001, Richie Howitt, "Where Are We Going and What Do We Do There?," p. 28; April 23, 2003, "Monumental Lies," p. 32.

Australian Journal of Environmental Management, December, 1998, Volume 5, issue 4, Ken Cussen, review of Rationality and Power, p. 250.

Australian Journal of Political Science, March, 1999, Volume 34, issue 1, Nicole Mitchell, review of Rationality and Power, p. 131; November, 2001, Volume 36, issue 3, Paul Healy, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 620.

Australian Journal of Social Issues, August, 2001, Volume 36, issue 3, David Oldroyd, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 265.

Canadian Journal of Sociology, winter, 2003, Volume 28, issue 1, Christopher G. A. Bryant, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 108.

Canadian Journal of Urban Research, winter, 2002, Volume 11, issue 2, Pierre Hamel, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 358.

Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, May, 1999, Volume 36, issue 2, Robert Prus, review of Rationality and Power, p. 294.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, October, 2001, Volume 39, issue 2, W. P. Nye, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 348.

Civil Engineering, June, 2003, Volume 73, issue 6, Ray Bert, review of Megaprojects and Risk, p. 87.

Communication Theory, February, 1999, Volume 9, issue 1, William Keith, review of Rationality and Power, p. 92.

Contemporary Review, July, 2001, Volume 279, issue 1626, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 59.

Contemporary Sociology, September, 2002, Volume 31, issue 5, Dan E. Miller, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 617.

Current Anthropology, February, 2002, Volume 43, issue 1, Eve Darian-Smith, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 194.

Environmental Politics, spring, 2002, Volume 11, issue 1, Adrian Smith, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 215.

Futurist, November-December, 2003, Volume 37, issue 6, review of Megaprojects and Risk, p. 59.

International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, December, 1999, Volume 23, issue 4, Michael Harloe, review of Rationality and Power, p. 804.

International Social Science Review, summer-spring, 2003, Volume 78, issue 1, James E. Voelker, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 51.

Journal of American Planning Association, winter, 2000, Volume 66, issue 1, Niraj Verma, review of Rationality and Power, p. 93.

Journal of Social History, summer, 2003, Volume 36, issue 4, John Modell, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 1097.

Law Society Journal, September, 2001, Volume 39, issue 8, Patricia Easteal, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 93.

New Scientist, March 29, 2003, Volume 177, issue 2388, Fred Pearce, "Big Dams All Round."

Perspectives on Political Science, winter, 2000, Volume 29, issue 1, G. Thomas Taylor, review of Rationality and Power, p. 57.

Political Studies, December 1999, Volume 47, issue 5, Ricardo Blaug, review of Rationality and Power, p. 975.

Public Administration, fall, 1999, Volume 77, issue 3, Lotte Jensen, review of Rationality and Power, p. 678.

Science, July 6, 2001, Volume 293, issue 5527, Clifford Geertz, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 53.

Social Forces, December, 1999, Volume 78, issue 2, James M. Jasper, review of Rationality and Power, p. 806.

Social Science Journal, January, 2002, Volume 39, issue 1, Ellen M. Maccarone, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 146.

Southern Economic Journal, January, 2002, Volume 68, issue 3, Esther-Mirjam Sent, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 732.

Studies in the Education of Adults, spring, 2003, Volume 35, issue 1, Richard Edwards, review of Making Social Science Matter.

Theoria, December, 2002, Roger Deacon, review of Rationality and Power, p. 111.

Times (London, England), September 2, 2003, "The 60-Second Management Book," p. 6.

Times Higher Education Supplement, June 7, 2002, Harry Collins, "Science Adds Up for Big Softies," p. 27.

Times Literary Supplement (London, England), March 26, 1999, Glen Newey, "Trafikglad in Legoland"; February 14, 2003, Dennis Wrong, "Betrayed by the City Council," p. 25.

Town Planning Review, October, 1998, Ted Kitchen, review of Rationality and Power, p. 469.

Urban Studies, December, 2002, Volume 39, issue 13, Alan March, review of Making Social Science Matter, p. 2558.

ONLINE

Aalborg University Department of Development and Planning Web site,http://www.plan.aau.dk/ (June 1, 2004), staff listing.

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