New Directions in the Study of Work and Employment
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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.
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Chapter 3: A Meta-paradigm for Revitalizing Industrial Relations

John W. Budd


John W. Budd INTRODUCTION The decline of the academic field of industrial relations (IR) has been well chronicled (Kaufman, 1993, 2004). This decline is the product of myriad factors, including issues relating to academic scholarship inside and outside of IR, university enrollments and administrative structures, national political climates, and the weakening of labor unions. Revitalizing IR as an academic enterprise is therefore a complex task, and I will focus only on one piece of the puzzle: a revitalized vision for the field of IR that charts a new course between two extremes that have contributed to the field’s decline. An earlier generation of IR scholars emphasized the need for a single, integrative theory to successfully define the field. This drive for a single theory pushed out alternative theoretical perspectives. And when a grand theory failed to materialize, subsequent scholarship became excessively focused on the operation of IR processes and largely devoid of explicit theoretical discussions (Budd, 2004). A middle course can help revitalize IR. First, the field does not need a single, overarching theory, but it does need a common vision of its core subject, a unifying symbol (Adams, 1993), or an axis of cohesion (Abbott, 2001). IR should not be defined by a paradigm, but by a meta-paradigm – an organizing map that defines the field’s parameters (Masterman, 1970; Ritzer, 1980). This broader vision paves the way for a return to the inclusive approach of the field’s early decades nearly 100 years ago in which multiple theoretical...

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