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 4: An Institutional Environments Approach to Industrial Relations

John Godard

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


John Godard INTRODUCTION The study of industrial relations (IR) in the United States is rooted in the work of the early institutionalists (for example, Kaufman, 1993, 2004). Born largely in reaction to liberal economics, this work was substantially influenced by both the German historical and the British Fabian traditions. As such, it was sensitive to the historical foundations of institutional arrangements and studied these arrangements from a broad, economy and society perspective (Kaufman, 2004: 107). If there was a defining core, it may be argued to have been the institutions of labor and employment and their implications for the nature, relations and outcomes of employment. The loss of this tradition in the decades after World War II is attributable to a number of factors. These include the growth in popularity of methodological individualism and behavioralism in the social sciences and the establishment of formal industrial relations programs that came increasingly to consist of relatively independent subject areas, none of which addressed broader issues of economy and society and at least two of which (organizational behavior, human resource management) came to have little to do with the core concerns of the field. The mainstream of the field became increasingly isolated, focusing on narrow issues and practical problems having to do with collective bargaining and contract administration (Godard, 1994). The introduction of behavioral research methods in the 1970s (Kochan, 1980) and of management theory in 1980s (Kochan et al., 1986) helped to bring new life to the field, but they...

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