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 9: Revitalizing Industrial Relations

Michael J. Piore

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


Michael J. Piore INTRODUCTION Industrial relations (IR), broadly defined as the study of work and employment, has existed as a field of study for over a century. But when we think of the crisis of the field, particularly in the context of the professional association now called the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA, formerly the Industrial Relations Research Association), we are really talking about a period, beginning in the 1930s and extending roughly up to 1970 or 1975, when IR was intellectually most active and exciting, attracting the brightest and most dedicated students, enormous public interest and support (especially among policymakers and politicians), and, most importantly, considerable institutional support and dedicated research funding. It is nostalgia for those years that prompts the kind of hand wringing about the future of the field in which we are engaged today. I share many of these concerns, but I have reservations as well. Since this will not be an altogether welcome message in this forum, I want to begin by asserting my credentials as a member of the discipline – this is meant to be an insider’s critique. Although I was trained as an economist and my primary academic appointment has always been in an economics department, I think of myself as an IR scholar. My thesis advisor was John T. Dunlop, whose own contribution to the field of IR was at least as great as his contribution to economics. I have always been affiliated with the Industrial Relations Section at...

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