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Exploring policy discourses in the UK construction sector: an interpretive analysis

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posted on 20.10.2016, 08:51 authored by John-Paul Smiley
The following thesis explores construction policy discourses within the context of the United Kingdom (UK). The research was deemed both important and necessary as the construction sector represents a major portion of the UK economy, accounting for approximately seven per cent of GDP, and employing millions (Rhodes: 2015). Adopting an ontology of becoming and an interpretive epistemological perspective, it is argued that construction policy documents are best characterised as crystallised snapshots of a community s attempts at meaning making in time. Utilising a qualitative methodology, the thesis primarily achieves its aims through the textual analysis of three prominent construction policy documents ( Rethinking Construction - the Egan report, the Government Construction Strategy , and the Industrial Strategy: Construction 2025), as well as informational interviews with eleven contemporary, senior construction policy stakeholders, from nine different organisations. The empirical element was inspired by interpretive approaches to policy analysis, and in particular the works of Yanow (2000; 2003; 2007) and drew upon the Hermeneutical approach repopularised by Taylor (1971), and Gadamer (1975). Four primary discourses were discovered, these being: The discourse of the need to be competitive ; The discourse of the essentialness of efficiency ; The discourse of unfulfilled potential ; The discourse of fear of not being Modern . The analysis suggests that construction policy discourses at the time of writing are predominantly influenced by the dominant cultural trends known as neoliberalism and the enterprise culture , but that these too must be seen as emerging from, and as informed by, the super-ideology of political declinism (Tomlinson: 2000). It is from these cultural sources that the pools of meanings articulated in the texts are drawn (Marton: 1986). Furthermore, tracing the etymology of the word policy , it is suggested that construction policy documents police behaviour by shaping it towards particular directions in keeping with specific normative visions concerning the good life policy elites have. The findings are important as they suggest that contemporary construction policy discourses are in danger of becoming increasingly myopic, with alternative perspectives and visions increasingly marginalised, and so any potential for the flexible adaptation or reimagining of future policies is reduced. As a result, the thesis argues for greater involvement from a broader spectrum of social actors in all stages of construction policy, to both contribute to strengthening citizenry and democracy in the UK, whilst reducing the potential for myopia amongst policy elites.



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering


© John-Paul Smiley

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.