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Chan P W (2013) A 'zombie' existence: exploring Ulrich Beck's zombie categories and construction management research . In: Smith, S D and Ahiaga-Dagbui, D D (Eds.), Proceedings 29th Annual ARCOM Conference, 2-4 September 2013, Reading, UK, Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 1059–1069.

  • Type: Conference Proceedings
  • Keywords: post-structuralism; reflexive modernity; research method; zombie category
  • ISBN/ISSN: 978-0-9552390-7-6
  • URL: http://www.arcom.ac.uk/-docs/proceedings/ar2013-1059-1069_Chan.pdf
  • Abstract:

    Many construction management researchers continue to be preoccupied with narrowly advancing the corporate causes of productivity and profitability, with relative neglect for the implications of recent developments in the global economy. In this article, Ulrich Beck’s idea of ‘zombie categories’ and his theory of reflexive modernity is drawn upon to critically discuss how these render traditional studies of organisational performance limited. Zombies are the living dead. Like zombies, these are social concepts that are dead and yet kept alive in their use by scholars to describe the growing fiction of traditional social institutions. Through a reflection of two cases - a doctoral research project on construction labour productivity and an ongoing study on servitization of construction - it is argued that one needs to move away from the current complacency in using, and becoming used to, familiar categories in construction management research to question their consequences. The promulgation of ’zombie categories’ associated with organisational performance in construction might serve only to create the problems that many desire to solve in the first place.