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 5: Social Capital and the Labor Movement

David B. Lipsky and Ronald L. Seeber

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

Extract

David B. Lipsky and Ronald L. Seeber INTRODUCTION The causes and consequences of the decline of the American labor movement over recent decades have been examined in countless books and articles. Scholars and commentators, however, have virtually ignored one critical dimension. In this chapter, we focus on the social capital implications of the relative decline of the labor movement. There are several definitions of the term social capital. For our purposes, a relevant definition has been provided by the World Bank: ‘Social capital refers to the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society’s social interactions . . . Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions which underpin a society – it is the glue that holds them together.’1 The concept of social capital can be traced to the early part of the twentieth century and was implicitly used by philosophers as early as the eighteenth century. But recent research on social capital has been triggered largely by the work of Robert Putnam, especially his seminal books, Making Democracy Work (Putnam, 1993) and Bowling Alone (Putnam, 2000; Coleman, 1990; Adler and Kwon, 2002; Portes, 1998). In Bowling Alone, Putnam examined long-term trends in civic and social institutions in the United States and concluded that there had been a significant decline in political, civic, religious and philanthropic participation in our society. ‘The ebbing of community over the last several decades,’ Putnam writes, ‘has been silent and deceptive. We notice its effects in...

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