Building workers constitute between five and ten per cent of the total labour market in almost every country of the world. They construct, repair and maintain the vital physical infrastructure of our societies, and we rely upon and trust their achievements every day. Yet we know surprisingly little about builders, the organisation of their work, or the business relations that constitute their industry. This book redresses this lacuna by taking an in depth and close-up look at a section of London building workers and businessmen, highlighting a largely hidden social world.
Based on seven years of fieldwork where the author worked as a builder in London, this book describes the informal and practical cultural activities that underpin the construction economy, analysing how gifts, kick-backs, favours and loyalties served as the glue of this economy and also the fundamental frameworks for comprehending the mores and cultures of the building workers and businessmen. Thiel also explores the ethnic diversity and divisions within the trade, considering the centrality of the interrelationships of class, ethnicity and gender in the builders’ cultural and practical lives and showing how these factors interrelated with economy and polity to produce the building industry and its buildings.
Based predominately in cultural and economic sociology, the book will also be of interest to those working in the fields of gender studies; social class and inequality; migration and ethnicity; urban studies; and social identity.
About the Author
Darren Thiel is a lecturer in sociology at the University of Essex. Before taking up this position, he worked in a number of different occupations including the agricultural, construction, service and military sectors. After completing his PhD in 2006 he also worked as a researcher at the Home Office and the Police Foundation, and taught sociology at the University of East Anglia, UK.
Table of Contents
1: Contracting and subcontracting: the build, its builders and their ethnic communities, 2. Managing ‘in the office’, 3. Working ‘on the tools’, 4. Time, recreation and workplace culture, 5. Becoming a builder and being working class, 6. Building masculinity: bodies, law and violence, 7. Economy, informality and social stratification, 8. Conclusion: Cultures, capitalisms and class reproduction, Appendix A. Specifications and costs of the building project