While sociologists had secured a role in the conception of new settlements, the establishment in 1965 of the Federal Institute for Communal and Housing Questions (Savezni zavod za komunalne i stambene poslove—SZKSP) gave social scientists an increased role in studying and evaluating these settlements once they were built. Under the leadership of director Rajko Rajic, an econo-mist who had been active in the Standing Conference of Yugoslav Cities, the SZKSP recruited researchers from a broad range of fields, including sociolo-gists, economists, urban planners, and lawyers, to conduct studies on a variety of topics, ranging from housing construction methods and finance to neigh-borly relations in settlements. Social scientists thus moved from playing a sup-portive role in urban planning to adopting a more critical perspective.
Sociologists initially approached their task cautiously, refraining from criticizing urban designers. Nonetheless, some of the methods that sociologists used implicitly posed a challenge to urban planners, such as surveying, which by its nature validated the opinions of respondents. Surveys were used to in-quire into what kind of housing people wanted, how they felt about the new settlements in which they lived, and what motivated rogue builders. Town planners had a complicated view of popular opinion. Reminiscing about the mandatory public meetings in which they had presented their detailed urban plans to local citizens, urban planners made it clear that their objective was not to garner input on how the plan might be improved but to successfully de-fend their project from attack. Any naive idealism about the inherent value of the opinions of the common folk quickly evaporated as they realized that peo-ple were only concerned with how they might personally be adversely affected by a plan without considering the benefits for the community as a whole.10 Bordevic himself believed that the public was simply not interested in aesthetic matters, focusing its frustrations instead on dysfunctional windows and elevators in new housing developments. He warned that this absence of interest made it easy for investors to ignore the architectural merits of a project and that “one day this question will explode in our public consciousness in all of its full social significance.” 11
A study published in 1967 by the SZKSP, however, refuted the perception of urban planners that the local population was not interested in urban planning matters.12 While it found that 41.3 percent of respondents from cities with a population greater than three hundred thousand inhabitants were not informed about their city’s master plan, and that only 32.8 percent stated they had opinions on how their city should be developed, this general lack of knowledge about urban matters among respondents did not necessarily translate into apathy.13 Much to the contrary: 85.2 percent of respondents living in cities of over three hundred thousand stated that they were angry about errors made in the development of their city, and 83.7 percent admitted to having private discussions about the development of their city. Slightly more than 90 percent said that they compared their city to other cities. 14 Clearly there was a strong interest in urban matters, which somehow manifested itself only in the private sphere. This study highlighted how disconnected urban populations felt from the planning process, a finding that was troubling in the context of self-management, which emphasized the participation of citizens in gover-nance.
The study also inquired into what kind of housing people wanted to live in. They found that 64.8 percent of respondents in cities of over three hundred thousand wished to live in one-story family houses. Of the remainder, 12.5 percent wished to live in four- to five-story apartment buildings, 7.1 percent wished to live in buildings exceeding eight floors, 1.9 percent wished to live in towers, and 13.7 percent did not have a preference.15 Across Yugoslavia, peo-ple increasingly aspired to own houses as their standard of living increased. 16 Significantly, the authors stopped short of the position that policies should reflect popular opinion. They asked whether cities should accommodate large areas of family houses, merely because people wanted to live in such houses and were willing to foot the bill. Without providing a direct answer, the study deferred to the “science” of planning, which would establish the suitable pro-portion of family houses to apartment buildings.17
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The involvement of social scientists working for the SZKSP and elsewhere in addressing the burning problems of urban planning might not have taken such a polemical turn were it not for two other developments that created a sense of social crisis in Yugoslavia. The first was a growing perception that ur-ban growth was out of control. Urban centers were seen as losing their iden-tities, engulfed by a sea of migrants who faced visible difficulties integrating. The press promoted this sense of crisis with such sensational headlines as “all are swarming to the city—will cities suffocate from immigration?” and “the village is dying because of the cities.”18
The second factor was a growing disenchantment and the belief among intellectuals starting in the late 1960s that Yugoslavia had failed as a socialist state, because, rather than creating a classless society, it had enabled the rise and entrenchment of a privileged class whose standard of living far surpassed that of the working class. This reproach was at the heart of the student protests in Belgrade in 1968. Indeed, the first item on the students’ agenda, as recorded in their “Resolution of the Student Demonstrations,” stated that “the main problem is the appearance of social inequality in our country.” They listed “en-ergetic measures against enrichment in a nonsocialist way” as one of their de-mands.19