Revitalizing Industrial Relations as an Academic Enterprise
Edited by Charles J. Whalen
Chapter 2: The Original Industrial Relations Paradigm: Foundation for Revitalizing the Field
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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