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 7: How Industrial Relations is Marginalized in Business Schools: Using Institutional Theory to Examine Our Home Base

Daphne Taras


Daphne Taras INTRODUCTION Pandora gingerly lifts the lid of our mysterious business school box and finds, to the surprise of many of her colleagues, that industrial relations (IR) is in decline for reasons that go well beyond the decline in US union density. Otherwise, why is it that in English Canada, in which the lowest union density province falls only slightly short of matching America’s highest density state, that the academic field of IR is threatened? Why indeed, in a country with a public sector density rate of almost 72 percent, with almost 20 percent of Canadians employed in the public sector?1 This briefing will offer insight into factors that currently threaten the already tepid health of IR in many Canadian business schools (as well as such schools outside Canada). These factors often are overlooked, and certainly will seem arcane, but they may be extraordinarily important to the fate of IR.2 It is odd that a field so comfortable with institutionalist approaches rarely turns this lens onto its own university settings. The marginalization of IR is insidious and it has been accelerating. Left unchecked, the forces I describe will quietly erode IR’s perch in business schools. Please do not for a minute think that business school deans and administrators sit around plotting the demise of IR because of union decline in the US.3 IR is not even on the Canadian radar screen. That, in a nutshell, is the problem. When a field doesn’t matter within its institutional...

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