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Analysing the discourses surrounding change and reform in the construction sector: the need for a marriage between critical theory and a socio-historical cultural perspective

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conference contribution
posted on 31.10.2013 by John-Paul Smiley, Andrew Dainty, Scott Fernie
Attempts to drive change and reform of the UK construction industry have been an on-going concern for numerous stakeholders, both in government and across industry, for years. The issue is a seemingly perennially topical one which shows little sign of abating. The current UK coalition government has recently ordered a wide ranging review of building standards and regulations, including health and safety and energy efficiency, in an attempt to cut ‘red-tape’, reduce costs, get industry moving and provide a boost to the flagging economy. Scholarly analyses of the reform agenda have tended to adopt a Critical Theory perspective. Such an approach, however, lacks a certain nuance and perhaps only reveals one layer of social reality. That various social actors in competition for scarce resources vie with each other for power and control reveals only a partial insight. What is arguably lacking is a more fundamental exposition concerning the historical, social and cultural explanatory forces at play. Whilst it is illuminating to expose vested interests, ideology and power, what has led to the development of various views? How have they come to achieve such high accord in discussions? Drawing on the works of Max Weber, Georg Simmel and Barbara Adam, this paper seeks to develop a broader theoretical lens in order to gain an appreciation of the forces influencing the development of the motivations and normative views of key stakeholders of the policy-making process. It considers the wider socio-cultural structures and forces that influence behaviour, shape and constrain these views. This approach will contribute to a much needed broader philosophical and theoretical debate within the construction management community (and beyond) on the need to better engage with and understand the cultural sources influencing the perennial issue of policy formulation and diffusion in the built environment that consistently fails to deliver expected reforms.

History

School

  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

Citation

SMILEY, J.-P., DAINTY, A.R.J. and FERNIE, S., 2013. Analysing the discourses surrounding change and reform in the construction sector: the need for a marriage between critical theory and a socio-historical cultural perspective. IN: Smith, S.D. and Ahiaga-Dagbui, D.D. (eds). Proceedings 29th Annual ARCOM Conference, Reading, UK, 2nd-4th September 2013, pp.445-454.

Publisher

Association of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM)

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publication date

2013

Notes

This is a conference paper. The publisher's website is at: http://www.arcom.ac.uk/

ISBN

9780955239076

Publisher version

Language

en

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