Edited by Keith Townsend and Adrian Wilkinson
Chapter 3: Finding the Future in the Past? The Social Philosophy of Oxford Industrial Relations Pluralism
Peter Ackers The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy . . . (Francis Fukuyama, ‘The end of history’, The National Interest, Summer 1989) Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? (T.S. Eliot, The Rock (1934), part I) INTRODUCTION: ACADEMIC ROOTS AND INTELLECTUAL CRISIS Industrial Relations (IR) is an old academic field, with much deeper intellectual roots than new pretenders such as Critical Management Studies (CMS) or Human Resource Management (HRM). If we take the Webbs’ Industrial Democracy (1897) as the foundation text, this places IR in the same historical wave that created the modern social science disciplines of economics, sociology and psychology. In this respect, IR was part and parcel of a practical and intellectual response to the rise of trade unions and collective bargaining, as central institutions of twentieth century industrial society. In the second half of the century those ideas were spread round the world from two main national centres – then much more equal in intellectual influence – the United States and Great Britain (see Kaufman, 2005; Ackers, 2005). The ‘Oxford school’ of Clegg, Fox and Flanders became the...
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