Constructing learning: adversarial and collaborative working in the British construction industry

Bishop, Dan, Felstead, Alan, Fuller, Alison, Jewson, Nick and Unwin, Lorna (2008) Constructing learning: adversarial and collaborative working in the British construction industry. Cardiff, Wales, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, 35pp. (Learning as Work Research Paper, 13).


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This paper examines two competing systems of organising the
construction process and their consequences for learning. Under the adversarial system, contractors compete solely on price, risks are shifted onto those next in line and disputes are institutionalised through complicated, but inevitably incomplete, contracts. However, under collaborative working the costs and risks of the project are shared and the parties involved communicate openly and freely, often in the absence of tightly specified contracts. The move from the former to the latter –
prompted and encouraged by government enquiries, large public sector clients and building regulations – represents a shift towards a climate in which problems are shared and solved regardless of where they occur in the productive system (a process conceptualised as ‘knotworking’ in the literature). The paper argues that such learning theories and policy pressures from above fail to take adequately into account the heavy hand
of history and the importance of understanding the nature of the
productive systems in which ‘knotworking’ is expected to occur. Both are important in understanding the fragility of collaborative working across the stages and structures of the construction production process which place limits on making ‘knotworking’ an habitual and commonplace activity.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Related URLs:
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
L Education > L Education (General)
T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Education > Lifelong and Work-Related Learning
ePrint ID: 63794
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
January 2008Published
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2008
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:48

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