Edited by Michael Barry and Adrian Wilkinson
Chapter 2: Comparative Employment Relations: Institutional and Neo-institutional Theories
Bruce E. Kaufman INTRODUCTION Comparative employment relations (CER) has enjoyed a resurgence of interest and scholarly research in recent years. A significant reason is the rising tide of globalization and its present and future impact on employment relations institutions and practices. Rather quickly the furthest corners of the earth have become interconnected in an international division of labor and system of market exchange, inevitably raising questions about the nature and extent of change in national employment relations (ER) systems and the degree to which they are converging to a similar model. As all participants know, CER is an incredibly large and complex undertaking because of the huge diversity in employment relations systems (ERSs) across nations and the large complications introduced by differences in languages, cultures, institutions and legal systems. This has made theorizing in CER particularly difficult and challenging. Illustratively, international/comparative textbooks typically have at best a modest discussion of theory and for the most part consist of a chapter by chapter descriptive review of major labor institutions and laws across countries (e.g., Bean, 1994; Van Ruysseveldt et al., 1995; Bamber et al., 2004). Also indicative of the underdeveloped and challenged nature of CER theory are these comments by well-recognized people. Jack Barbash begins the volume Theories and Concepts in Comparative Industrial Relations (Barbash and Barbash, 1989, p. 3) with the statement, ‘If we are not bound by one theory it is just possible that common values inform our work’, while in the mid-1990s Richard Locke et al. (1995, pp...
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