Urban Renewal and Social Exclusion in Taiwan – Examining from the Theory of Three Faces of Power

Wang, Chang-Kai (2016). 'Urban Renewal and Social Exclusion in Taiwan – Examining from the Theory of Three Faces of Power' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

Urban renewal in Taiwan is regarded as one of the major ‘industries’ for booming economic growth. The state closely cooperates with developers and intentionally releases dominant powers to them in order to implement urban renewal projects. For example, the developer can designate urban renewal district solely according to their own discretion. Both of state and developers create the biased myth of ‘the majority defines the public interest’ and disregard wishes from those powerless. Legal institutions for urban renewal then recognize that the developers are legally qualified to exercise power of ‘forced participating/removal’ on those powerless minority who does not want to participate in the urban renewal project. Sadly, the state even becomes a bulldozer to destroy homes of those powerless. It therefore seriously violates their human rights endowed in the constitution. Such a development pattern creates serious ethical concerns and human-right crisis, which against the mainstream of ‘an approach to development in which the objective is to expend what people are able to do and be – what might be called their real freedoms’ (Deneulin & Shahani, 2009: 23)[1] prompted by HDCA.
By reviewing through the theory of ‘three faces of power’[2] and public/private law principles, this paper reveals that the core forces to implement urban renewal project have many institutional biases which were embedded in the Urban Renewal Act. The Act even creates awkward phenomenon of ‘Flucht in das Privatrecht’, under which the authority can receive great political credits but take no responsibilities. As a result, the authority not only lacks of cognition and motivation to fix the fraud, but also tries every effort to distribute a biased myth as ‘rebuilding old house is public interest’. The urban renewal powerful regime tries every efforts to turn whoever fight for their property right and refuse to participate urban renewal business as the enemy of public. Obnoxious terms as ‘stubborn nail’, ‘greedy person’ are all created on purpose to attack them. Unfortunately, many of those powerless cannot resist pressures and are forced to participate. Their constitutional rights are deprived.
This paper argues that it is necessary to redress the ideological manipulation, and to make every people ‘to be seen … as being actively involved…and not just as passive recipients of the fruits of cunning development programs’ (Sen, 1999: 53)[3]. It also needs extra efforts to restructure the injustice power structures among politicians, capitalists and civil society. With this work, we then will be able to reveal that the interests of politicians and capitalists have long been embedded in the institution and policies of Urban Renewal Act. Thus, it will be possible to set free those powerless minority, whom are the weakest in this power structure dominated by the so call ‘public interest’ ideology. Furthermore, the paper also maintains that through the amendment of Urban Renewal Act to rebalance the power and right, it can reverse the vicious circle of three faces of power, make every actor communicate fairly with each other until consensus achieved, and return to what the HDCA presents ‘a people-centred meaning’ of development.
[1]   Deneulin, Severine & Shahani, Lila (eds.)(2009), An Introduction to the Human Development and Capability Approach-Freedom and Agency . London: Earthscan. Ameringer.
[2]   Steven Lukes defined the ‘pluralist view of power’ by Robert A. Dahl as one-dimensional power; the ‘nondecision-making’ concept in The Two Faces of Power by Peter Bachrach and Morton S. Baratz (1962) as two-dimensional power; and argue that the power ‘to prevent people, to whatever degree, from having grievances by shaping their perceptions, cognitions and preferences in such a way that they accept their role in the existing order of things’ is the ‘third dimensional’ of power(Lukes, 2005: 11). That’s what has known as ‘three faces of power’.
[3] Sen, Amartya K.(1999), Development as Freedom. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.

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