Centralized decision-making leads to spatial decentralization

I’ve found a very revealing paragraph from a 1969 article in an old journal, Ekistics (it was published until 2006). It’s in a special issue dedicated to “rational” urban planning in Africa. The paragraph indirectly refers to a dominant planning theory of the time (and the region), central place theory, and it grasps its political-administrative logic so well:

“It is clear that no individual decision-maker can build up such a unit; he has to locate where the complementary establishments are. Decentralized decision-making, such as prevails in the United States, inevitably leads to ever greater spatial centralization. Spatial decentralization can be brought about only by a central decision-maker who can locate all required establishments simultaneously, or at least in a scheduled sequence. This is confirmed by the experience not only of Communist-ruled countries, but also of those western nations who have achieved some success in spatial decentralization, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Israel. This dialectic appears to be overlooked by most decentralists who want decentralization both of decision-making and of location.” (Blumenfeld 1969: 270)

Interestingly the discourse is rather general or universal (laws), but examples are taken in a dichotomous framework from Western or “developed” countries, and recipient African countries.

Blumenfeld, Hans (1969): The Rational Use of Urban Space as National Policy, Ekistics 27(161): 269-273.