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Construction policy research: beware reason masquerading as truth

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conference contribution
posted on 2014-11-27, 14:18 authored by John-Paul Smiley, Andrew Dainty, Scott FernieScott Fernie
One of the defining characteristics of the modern era has been the ascendency and privileging of an instrumental version of reason at the expense of other, competing forms of rationality. Now deeply established and an integral component of Neoliberal discourse, it forms the dominant form of reasoning for many planners, policy-makers, academics and laypersons alike. Drawing on the works of Max Horkheimer and Max Weber, this paper considers the ways in which instrumental reason diminishes policy formulations and undermines democratic culture. It achieves this through a consideration of the exclusion of ‘deep’ green activists from policy formulation and an examination of the Capital approach to sustainability popularised by David Pearce. Recognising instrumental reason as a culturally specific value-laden ideal, this paper teases out the assumptions behind such thought and highlights the potential for alternatives. Such a realisation has important consequences, as the ability for built environment policy-makers to reimagine theory and practice becomes possible only when the veil of instrumental reason, cloaked and presented as a value-neutral ideal, is lifted. It is hoped that such a perspective will contribute to the growing theoretical and philosophical debate in Construction Management research.



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

Published in

Procs 30th Annual ARCOM Conference, Association of Researchers in Construction Management


1081 - 1090


SMILEY, J.-P., DAINTY, A.R.J. and FERNIE, S., 2014. Construction policy research: beware reason masquerading as truth. IN: Raiden, A.B. and Aboagye-Nimo, E. (eds). Proceedings of the 30th Annual ARCOM Conference, 1st-3rd September 2014, Portsmouth, UK, volume 2 pp. 1081-1090.


Association of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM)


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Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



This conference paper was presented at the 30th Annual ARCOM Conference held on the 1st-3rd September 2014, in Portsmouth.




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