Revitalizing Industrial Relations as an Academic Enterprise
Edited by Charles J. Whalen
Conclusion: The Future of Industrial Relations, a.k.a. Work and Employment Relations
Conclusion: the future of industrial relations, a.k.a. work and employment relations Thomas A. Kochan INTRODUCTION It is the perfect time to celebrate the achievements of the ﬁrst century of industrial relations (IR) and make the transition to the study of work and employment relations in the forms they exist today. Why? This ﬁeld of study and practice is now well into an era that parallels the conditions that led to the emergence of IR over a century ago. The Webbs and John R. Commons and their colleagues and students created this ﬁeld as Britain and the United States were transitioning from an agrarian to an industrial economy with all the attendant changes in the nature of work, the workforce and family life. The fundamental problem identiﬁed by these founding scholars was that the institutions and laws governing work had not changed or developed fast enough to keep up with the changes in the economy. The results: Workers experienced income declines, employment disruptions and uncertainties, and harsh working conditions; societies experienced increased conﬂict and sporadic violence; and the variance in employer behavior increased. Some employers chose to take advantage of excess labor supply and wage competition by ‘sweating labor’ and suppressing worker eﬀorts to form unions, while others tried to follow newly emerging ‘scientiﬁc’ principles in managing their workforce. As Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld notes in his chapter, the United States, Britain, and most other developed nations are now in the midst of another transition – from an industrial economy...
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