Agencement in housing markets: The case of the UK construction industry

Heather Lovell, Susan Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper addresses a paradox in UK housing construction, namely its ‘lock-in’ to masonry house building – a socio-technical assemblage which endures, despite recognised shortcomings, even in the wake of government policies encouraging factory-based prefabricated alternatives. Combining theoretical inspiration from recent work on the cultural economy and material sociology of markets with empirical research on innovation in the home building industry, we weigh up the forces for inertia against the impulse for change in methods of housing construction. The analysis shows that while the case for and against innovation appears to turn on financial costs and benefits (it is a calculation debate), in practice, social, cultural and technical differences – struggles over the assemblage and agencement of housing construction markets – are the critical issues underpinning UK resistance to prefabrication. Practically, we argue that government needs a better appreciation of this complexity if its aim is to encourage innovation. Theoretically, we advocate a firmer distinction between the concept of assemblage – a description of markets – and that of agencement – a property or quality of them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-468
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Early online date4 Jan 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2010


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