New Directions in the Study of Work and Employment

New Directions in the Study of Work and Employment

Revitalizing Industrial Relations as an Academic Enterprise

Edited by Charles J. Whalen

Charles Whalen’s book identifies avenues leading to the revitalization of industrial relations as an academic discipline. The contributors, a stellar assemblage of the field’s leading scholars, demonstrate there is much work to be done: the scope and intellectual content of industrial relations need to be reconsidered; academic and social institutions must be reshaped; and new conceptual and practical issues demand attention.

Chapter 2: The Original Industrial Relations Paradigm: Foundation for Revitalizing the Field

Bruce E. Kaufman

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, economics and finance, labour economics


2. The original industrial relations paradigm: foundation for revitalizing the field Bruce E. Kaufman INTRODUCTION The field of industrial relations (IR) is in decline across most nations of the world. The reasons for this pronounced decline are numerous. Arguably the most important factor, however, is the steady and increasingly severe erosion in union density in most countries. To a large degree, most scholars regard trade unionism, collective bargaining and labor-management relations, and the national labor policy and labor law within which they are embedded, as the core subjects of the field (Adams, 1993; Strauss and Whitfield, 1998). Admittedly, these subjects are examined from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, theoretical points of view and national experiences, giving IR research a rich diversity. In addition, one certainly must recognize that other subjects, such as contingent work, work–family balance, and dispute resolution, are also important parts of the intellectual dialogue in the field. Nonetheless, the indisputable fact remains that the study of trade unions and labor–management relations forms the heart of IR, through the observation of Keller (1996: 202) that, ‘Discussions of the future of IR always tend to turn into a debate on the future of trade unions.’ Since union density has declined for several decades in a slow but cumulatively significant way across nearly all regions of the world, the field of IR has suffered its own long-term decline (Kaufman, 2006). Is there any way out for IR? One option is to hope for a union...

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