Introduction The phenomena of employment relations are found in all countries where people work for others in paid employment. According to (Bamber et al 2004) employment relations deal with all aspects of employment relations, including human resource management (HRM). Therefore, in this paper the term employment relations will be used to encompass industrial relations and HRM. As a generic subject, therefore, industrial relations are ubiquitous. The field of employment relations, on the other hand, is one particular (Bain, 1974) approach to studying these phenomena and solving the problems that arise from them.
It is only one of a variety of possible ways to produce and organize knowledge, and as such it has a unique frame of reference and its own theories and concepts, techniques, practices, and ideological commitments. The internationally comparative approach (Bamber et al 2004) requires insights from several disciplines and knowledge of different national contexts. Some scholars distinguish between comparative and international studies in this field. Comparative employment relations may involve a description and analysis of two or more countries.
Whereby, international employment relations involve (Bamber et al 2004) exploring institutions and facts that cross national boundaries such as the labour market roles and behaviour of intergovernmental organisations, multinational enterprises and unions. International and comparative employment relations include a range of studies that span boundaries between countries. This paper will examine employment relations, reasons justifying the international comparative study of employment relations and it will also identify and critically discuss some of the difficulties and pitfalls in engaging in this academic enterprise.
Employment relations The term employment relations, although not entirely transparent in meaning connotes the state of relations between employers and employees. When the tern is examined closer it is the relations between capital and labour. From the beginning (Bamber & Lansbury 1998) the field of employment relations contained three distinct and partially divergent dimensions, science-building, problem-solving and ethical/ideological faces. Employment relations as an intellectual enterprise circa the 1920s covered the subjects of work, labour and the employment relationship, and gave particular attention to relations in the work world.
It also subsumed both employers’ methods of work organization and personnel management and the employees’ individual and collective response to the work experience, including strikes, trade unions and collective bargaining. It took on a multidisciplinary (Bean 1994) perspective, including attention to legal, psychological, technical, sociological, economic, ethical historical and administrative forces. Moreover, it focused on both public policy issues concerning labour and workplace practices and outcomes. The list of topics is quite broad and covers the entire world of work.
Taking the word ‘relations’ seriously suggests, however that the fundamental construct that underlies the field is the employment relationship. In its most general form, therefore, industrial relations is the study of employment relationship and all the behaviours, outcomes, practices and institutions that emanate from or impinge on the employment relationship. Industrial relations could thus be more accurately called employment relations. Employment relations as an academic field of study first appeared in the United States in 1920.
The academic person most responsible the birth and early development in the USA Wisconsin was professor John R. Commons. Commons was also co-founder of the American school of institutional economics. An important topic of interest of Commons and the Wisconsin school was trade unions and collective bargaining, but they also devoted major attention to the management of labour, labour law, social insurance programmes and macroeconomic stabilization. Employment relations also emerged at the same time a management function and vocational area of practice in American business firms, largely conterminous with what is today called personnel/HRM.
In this period the practice of personnel management was hardly in existence, the labour policy in most firms were quite informal and decentralized, and labour was typically treated as a commodity and dealt (Blain, 1970) with in a relatively authoritarian and often insensitive manner. Employment relations emerged as a reaction against the traditional system and the many problems it created, and emphasized gaining competitive advantage through scientific management of labour and practices that created goodwill and a unity of interest.
Although employment relations was broadly conceived to cover all industrial relations and was adopted by many non-union firms, a central programmatic and ideological premise of employment relations was that some method for collective employee voice is highly desirable. Although employment relations first emerged as a formal concept and institutionalized entity, the ideas and conditions that led to it had a long pre-history dating back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteen century.
Central to the development of employment relations was the emergence of large-scale (Bamber et al 2004) capital-intensive industry, a wage-earning labour force separated from the land and other means of production; a business ethos that regarded labour as a commodity to be bought cheaply as possible, used to the utmost, and then discarded; a skewed political and social system that favoured property owners, business interests and social elites and kept wage earners in a vulnerable, subordinated and sometimes exploited position; labour markets characterized by intense competition and frequent bouts of extensive unemployment.
A legal system (Clegg, 1976) that gave scant protection to workers’ rights or security against workplace hazards such as accidents, unemployment and the infirmities of old age. Out of these conditions grew mounting labour unrest, militant trade unions, violent strikes, and radical working-class political movements (Clegg, 1976) espousing the replacement of capitalism with various forms of socialism, communism and syndicalism. As these symptoms of discontent and alienation came to a head in the late nineteenth century, they became known throughout the world as the Labour Problem.
From roughly 1880 to 1920 the labour problem grew in intensity and finally reached a peak during and immediately following the First World War, symbolized (Nilson, 1996) by the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and workers’ uprisings and general strikes in many other nations around the world. Not coincidentally, it was exactly at this moment in history that the industrial relations field was born and its “fraternal twin”, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) was created under the Treaty of Versailles at the Paris peace conference.
Although Commons was the first person to publish a scholarly work explicitly devoted to the new subject of employment relations, many other people both inside and outside academia long preceded him in the more general analysis of the phenomena on employment relations. A number of themes of employment relations, for example, are contained in Adam Smith’s Wealth of nations (1776), while English businessman Charles Morrison’s book – An essay on the relations between labour and capital (1854), is obviously apropos.
Later in the nineteenth century, people began writing on labour and the Labour Problem, in all the emerging industrial countries of the world, including not only the United Kingdom and the USA but also France, Germany and Japan: well-known names include Lujo Bretano, Alfred Marshall, Fredrick Taylor and Max Weber. Among the early writers, three people stand out as having had unsurpassed influence on the future field of employment relations. The first two are the English husband and wife team Sidney and Beatrice Webb.
The Webbs wrote two acclaimed books that lie at the core of employment relations: The history of trade unionism (1894) and Industrial democracy (1897). Particularly in the latter, the Webbs developed theoretical ideas and a point of view that have become foundational for employment relations. The other seminal writer is Karl Marx. Marx did not himself write on employment relations and indeed, would have been highly critical of both the idea and practice of employment relations.
Rather, his great influence was (Giles, 1988) to present a vision of capitalist society so compellingly dire and dark that it moved the defenders of capitalism to mount a major counter-response. Marx, in his work Capital, derived a theory of capitalist economic development based on one fundamental and damming proposition – that the system is inherently unjust because it can only grow and reproduce by exploiting workers. The exploitation of workers arises from the fact (Albeda 1984) that the wage they are paid is less than their contribution to production, with the residual being expropriated by the capitalist as unearned profit.
Marx further argued that the exploitation of the workers leads to a growing polarization of society into two antagonistic classes, the gradual misery of the working class (Albeda 1984) as wages are driven down to the subsistence level, worsening unemployment, economic crises, and an eventual revolt by the workers and overthrow of capitalism, abolition of private property and takeover of the government by the working class.
While numerous other radical writers expounded many of the same themes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Marx’s vision gained particular attention since he claimed to show that it was (Albeda, 1984) an inevitable outcome of irreversible historical forces. Also helping Marx was the fact that in certain respects capitalism was evolving in way he predicted, such as a growing concentration of capital, longer periods of recessions and depression (such as the 1870s and 1890s), and mounting labour unrest.
The defenders of capitalism advanced two intellectual arguments and policy programmes to rebut Marx and his apocalyptic scenario. Early industrial relations was (Albeda, 1984) thus not a unitary construct but had three different and partially divergent dimensions or “faces”: an intellectual or science-building face; an applied or problem-solving face; and an ethical or ideological face. Further complicating matters, while these three faces all rested on a subset of generic ideas and practices found in many other countries. Comparative Industrial Relations
Comparative industrial relations are a systematic method of investigation relating to two or more countries which has analytic rather than descriptive implications. Poole (1986) has advanced principles for guiding the comparative analysis of industrial relations and phenomena: (1) a focus upon environmental influence emanating from societal structures and processes (2) a multidisciplinary perspective so as to incorporate economic, political and socio-cultural factor (3) emphasis upon explanatory variables rather than descriptive categories and (4) the importance of utilising a historical as well as a contemporary dimension.
There is need for identifying appropriate benchmark (Albeda 1984) and a suitable framework of analysis. The comparative approach can afford a perspective and lead to a greater insight into domestic issues in a country, by contrasting industrial relations advances and practices with those of other countries, thereby placing the home country in context. Comparative employment relations and reasons for it as a study During its first decade of existence in the 1920s the field of employment relations was largely confined to a (Bean 1994) small academic base in the United States.
Today, employment relations is taught, researched and written on by scholars across the world, numbering several thousand in number. Also marking the (Bean, 1994) progress of the field are the many institutions devoted to employment relations, such as well-recognized schools and institutes of employment relations, well over a dozen scholarly journals, numerous specialized master’s and doctoral programmes, over 40 national employment relations associations, and an international association of employment relations that counts members from more than 80 countries.
The United Kingdom was home to the Industrial Revolution and the factory system, and by the late nineteenth century had the most (Watson, 1997) mature and fully developed manufacturing base of any nation. It also had a far larger and more firmly institutionalized labour movement and was the first to enact factory act legislation to regulate undesirable labour conditions. When the world-renowned labour scholars the Webbs and the new LSE are added to the mix, all the ingredients necessary for the emergence of the industrial relations field seemed in place.
Germany was another (Walker, 1967) top candidate to be the birthplace of employment relations. Germany was a rapidly rising industrial power and by 1900 had surpassed the UK. The German labour movement was also greatly expanding and in partnership with the Social Democratic Party was widely regarded as the vanguard of the working class. On the academic front Germany also had several advantages, German universities at the turn of the twentieth century were widely considered the world’s finest.
Germany was also home to the world’s first and most influential professional association of social scientists dedicated to the study of labour and social policy. German academic and employment practitioners shortly after the First World War developed the field of Arbeitswirtschaft (science of work) and the employment strategy of Werksgemeinschaft (enterprise community), both of which were close to the method of employment relations.
Japan was also a rapidly (Walker, 1967) rising industrial power at the turn of the twentieth century and much concerned about growing industrial unrest and the threat to social stability posed by the emergence of trade unions and a working class. The Labour Problem was not only a concept much discussed in the Japanese press but also one that attracted the interest of academics and policy makers.
Numerous Japanese travelled to the West and returned, bringing the economic and social theories of people as diverse as Samuel Gompers, Karl Marx, Pierre Proudhon and Adam Smith. But among the Western nations the Japanese were most attracted to Germany and the German approach to social policy. Thus, after his return from studying in Germany, Noburu Kanai took the lead in founding in 1896 the Japan Social Policy Association and the theory of Sozialpolitik became a guiding influence in developing Japanese labour policy.
As has happened in many other areas, the Japanese could easily have taken these Western ideas, improved and refined them, and come first to the academic marketplace with the new field of industrial relations. As an academic subject, employment relations (Booth, 1902) tends to be taught either as a subject within management (“the business school model”) or as a separate within an institute or school devoted primarily to employment relations.
The birth of the employment relations concept began in the United States in 1912 when President Taft appointed a high-level investigative body called the Commission on Industrial Relations. The concept next appeared in Canada in 1919 with the formation of the Royal Commission on Industrial Relations. Canadian William Lyon Mackenzie King played an influential role in the early development of industrial relations in the United States through his consulting work with industrialist John D.
Rockefeller, Jr. When King moved back to Canada in 1919 and became prime minister in 1921, he naturally formed an important conduit for the transmission of industrial relations back to his home country. The first university unit devoted explicitly to industrial relations (at Queen’s University) did not appear in Canada until 1937, however, and was largely the creation of American Clarence Hicks and Canadian Bryce Stewart both connected (Hall, 1996) with the Rockefeller consulting firm IRC, Inc.
Hicks and Rockefeller, it should be noted, were also responsible for establishing the five other industrial relations units that appeared in American universities in the 1920s and 1930s: California Institute of Technology, Michigan, MIT, Princeton and Stanford. During the 1920s, employment relations moved beyond the borders of North America in two steps, but without much discernible effect on its institutional development in the short to medium term.
The most important step was the founding in 1919 of the ILO (International Labour Organisation). The fact that both the ILO and industrial relations field emerged at practically the same time is not coincidence. They were born much like fraternal twins – having some differences in detailed appearance and personality but conceived by the same parents and highly similar in overall make-up. The “parents” of the ILO and industrial relations were fear and promise.
The fear factor came from the threat of the Labour Problem and Bolshevism, and the palpable feeling that the two might fuse together (Kochan et al, 1997) and usher in industrial civil war and socialist revolution. To head off this calamity, the industrial countries at the Paris peace conference at the close of the First World War made an unprecedented concession to labour and created the ILO, both as a visible symbol of labour’s higher status in the new world order and as a tangible method to improve labour conditions and take some of the pent-up steam out of the Labour Problem.
This same sense of threat (Kochan et al, 1997) and crisis came to a boil in the United States in 1919 and led to the creation of a new field of study and practice called industrial relations – chartered with the explicit mission of solving labour problems in order to maintain industrial peace and stability. The ILO and industrial (Kochan et al, 1997) relations can thus be viewed as the capitalist countries’ defence against the Red Menace. Moving forward in the global evolution of comparative employment relations, the next significant extension (Strauss 1970) of the field was to the United Kingdom in the early 1930s.
Although the term employment relations started to surface in the United Kingdom after the mid-1920s, it had practically no presence in British universities until three chairs of employment relations were established at Cambridge, Cardiff and Leeds in 1933. Parallel to the North American experience, the entry of employment relations into these universities was made possible by the philanthropy of a wealthy businessman, clothing manufacturer Montague Burton, who like Rockefeller was both socially conscious and concerned with promoting reconciliation between capital and labour.
Employment relations did not make further advance in British universities until after the Second World War. As of 1960, employment relations as a field of study had almost no formal presence outside the English-speaking world. A decade later (Ackers 2002) more than a dozen new employment relations associations were established and operated in countries as diverse as Argentina, France, Israel and Japan, while numerous universities in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America added employment relations courses and, sometimes, employment relations majors or degree programmes.
Another decade later the number of employment relations associations had doubled again, spreading to Chile, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sweden and many other countries in all corners of the world. Suddenly employment relations had “gone global”. What was the catalyst for this remarkable change? A significant part of the answer is the founding of the IIRA and the events leading up to it. The IIRA was founded in 1966 as a joint endeavour of four organizations: the BUIRA in the United Kingdom, the American IRRA, and the JIL in Japan and the IILS in Switzerland.
The two people who took the lead in this effort were Ben Roberts of the LSE and Robert Cox, IILS director, with supporting help from Gerald Somers and Arthur Ross of the United States and Ichiro Nakayama of Japan and Jean-Daniel Reynaud of France. The genesis of the IIRA can be traced back (Ackers, 2002) to the appointment of American David Morse as the new Director-General of the ILO in 1948. For a variety of reasons, Morse sought to expand the strategy and programmes of he ILO by augmenting the enactment of new international labour standards through ILO Recommendations and Conventions with greater emphasis on improving labour conditions through economic development and labour–management relations programmes. It also happened that in the mid- 1950s Kerr and colleagues Dunlop, Harbison and Myers were beginning their Ford Foundation sponsored Inter-University Study of Labour Problems (Ackers, 2002) in Economic Development. The ILO helped open doors for Kerr et al. t labour ministries, trade unions and employers’ associations in the many countries they visited, and the scholars, in turn, gave a number of seminars, briefings and consultations at the ILO and with Morse. Out of this relationship, and due to other larger factors, industrial relations (in its broad 1950s, multidisciplinary, ILE-centred form) gradually became a central intellectual and ideological roadmap for the ILO after the late 1950s. The founders of the IIRA decided to hold a world congress every third year.
The first one was held in Geneva in 1967. Roberts was elected president. Apparently the time was ripe for such an organization because over 200 people from 39 countries attended. Equally important, the officers of the IIRA recruited attendees to return to their countries and start up employment relations associations, university programmes and courses. In this effort they were quite successful for, by 1973, the IIRA had 19 “full” members (national employment relations associations), 36 “institutional” members (e. g. university employment relations centres) and 341 individual members. One may judge, therefore, that the founding of the IIRA precipitated a “global transformation” of employment relations, for in 1965 the field was largely restricted to a handful of English speaking countries and a decade later it had become established in several dozen other countries spanning Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. As an academic subject they are several reasons for the study of international comparative employment relations.
The basic purposes of the employment relations systems concept are to provide a (Smith,1959) conceptual framework for organizing knowledge about the employment relations and for understanding how various components of this system combine to produce particular outcomes. Another reason is to contribute to our knowledge about employment relations in different countries and as a source of models for policy development (Bamber et al 2004). It introduces the theories, issues and practices involved in the management of employment relations (Smith, 1959) within an increasingly competitive global market.
To gain a broad understanding of the context and nature of different systems of international employment relations, which help to encourage to explore the cross-national similarities and differences between countries, geographical neighbours and trading partners through the completion of case studies and the research on the topic. The subject of comparative employment relations exposes researchers to human resources policies and practices of multinational corporations, and explores how they are utilised for competitive advantage.
Comparative employment relations and human resource management, as fields of study, have often been (Bamber et al 2004) criticised for being overly descriptive and for their apparent inability to develop straightforward casual explanations of relevant phenomenon. Comparative employment relations research offers the potential for significant theory building (Bean, 1994). The reason for this is because comparison requires the abstraction of concepts from particular context.
Another factor that adds to the (Bamber et al 2004) complexity to this field: analysts have to collect much information about more than one country before being able to make generalisations. There is also a tendency to focus on the formal institutions and legal structures as a basis for comparison, rather than on the more complex informal practices and processes. Some of the difficulties and pitfalls of comparative employment relations It is apparent that international comparative employment relations is by no means an easy field of study and has considerable inherent problems.
It is not only that, as with employment relations generally, it is multidisciplinary in its dimensions (Blanpain, 2002) but it also reaches across cultures, thereby exacerbating the difficulties of finding appropriate bases making inter-country comparisons. There can also be problems in ensuring a measure of concept equivalence across societies, since what are nominally identical practices or institutions may perform varying functions, or have a very different significance.
The French use ‘participation’, for instance in one sense to mean ‘profit sharing’, whereas the term is more usually understood in the sense of participation by workers in the management of enterprises (Blanpain, 2002). It is also known that in a number of countries labour disputes are brought before so-called labour courts for resolution. But in any attempt to compare these institutions on an international basis there are immediate difficulties in terminology, in that bodies with the same name may perform different functions.
The German Labour Court, for example is empowered to settle labour disputes by means of statutory binding decision (Blanpain, 2002) whereas the Irish labour Court acts only as a conciliation body. In some countries labour court functions are performed by bodies with different names, such as labour, or industrial, tribunals. By common agreement comparative employment relations does not have a well-developed integrative theoretical base. Several have been advanced, such as Dunlop’s industrial relations systems model, but none have moved beyond the stage of classification and description.
Of the theories and models used in employment relations, nearly all come from outside the field, such as economics, sociology and organizational behaviour. A number of people in comparative employment relations have denied that an integrative theory is feasible or even desirable, given the vast range of subjects (Walker, 1967) and institutions that fall with the domain of “all aspects of employment” and the difficulty of theory construction across countries and disciplinary lines.
Lacking an integrative theory, industrial relations has instead sought to develop theoretical generalizations at a lower level of abstraction, such as so-called “middle range” theories. Concepts of “job regulation” and “social regimes (Walker, 1967) of market regulation” or models of strategic choice and the efficiency/equity trade –off are suggestive and have insight but have not to date provided the theoretical basis for an advancing research programme. In the 1960s employment relations in its two major home countries had largely narrowed from “all employment relationships” to union management relationships”.
As long as the union sectors of their economies remained large and important and industrial conflict continued to flare up, many labour problems demanded (Betrand 2001) attention and universities saw good reason to establish and grow employment relations programmes and to hire new faculty members to teach students and conduct research. However, when the union movements went into decline, strikes plummeted and public policy turned indifferent and sometimes hostile toward collective bargaining, student enrolments and research funding began to dwindle and industrial relations started to lose its major rationale for existence.
Soon, retrenchment and cutbacks hit comparative employment relations, gathering speed in proportion to the decline in labour movement. The essence of employment relations as a problem-solving field is to work out new institutional arrangements to solve labour problems. Over the last (Walker, 1967) three decades in all industrial countries the type of labour problems that demand public attention has changed dramatically, reflecting underlying demographic shifts (working women, dual earner couples, workforce diversity, etc) economic transformations and social developments.
Some of the largest labour problems are not even within individual countries but between nations, such as migration policy and the growing gap between rich and poor countries. Certainly part of the decline of comparative employment relations in Anglophone world, and most particularly in the USA, is the public (Walker, 1967) perception that the programmes and policies associated with comparative employment relations, such as collective bargaining and extensive formal rule-bound employment contracts, are not well suited or particularly relevant to solving these new problems.
In effect comparative (Watson, 1997) employment relations has fallen out of step with the modern workplace because its toolkit of institutional “fixes” is no longer regarded as very effective, further reducing the incentive for universities to protect and maintain employment relations as a field of study. Employment relations has suffered (Blain, 1987) from lack of a solid theoretical foundation and an intellectually compelling research programme, a decline in the relevance and usefulness of its problems-solving programme, and declining ideological support for the cause of organized labour.
As a result, employment relations, has lost the (Blain 1987) support of three main sponsors or “customers”- universities, business firms and government. Universities will make room for employment relations if it has something intellectually interesting and important to say, or if it can fill classrooms with students, or if the labour movement cares enough about the field and exerts sufficient pressure on key officials. All of these conditions are weakening and universities are increasingly scaling back or dropping employment relations.
A growing number of employers have also deserted employment relations. Where union density remains high, employers continue to accept employment relations, but in countries and industries where decentralization and de-unionization have (Trow, 1993) arrived the attitude of employers has notably hardened and turned antagonistic. Governments are not as interested in employment relations as they used to be, and some have turned hostile towards it.
During the years of the post-war “social accord”, employment relations was an integral part of social policy practically every industrial nation. Large-sized and institutionally secure labour movements, along with well-developed welfare state, were accepted by public opinion and mainstream political parties as the inevitable and desired historical trajectory of modern capitalism. The actual experience with widespread collective bargaining in many countries, particularly outside corporatist Northern Europe, gradually proved disappointing, however.
Unions seemed to shift from protectors of the weak and shields of justice to narrow interest groups that used their power to win outsize economic gains and a host of restrictive practices benefiting union members but at the cost of saddling the community with strikes, higher inflation, lower productivity and a more politicized and disruptive workplace. Inevitably, a reaction set in, symbolized by the election of Thatcher, Reagan and other conservative governments around the world and the movement toward neo-liberalism, market deregulation, trimming back the welfare state and reducing the immunities and power of organized labour.
In such an environment, few government policymakers see industrial relations as contributing answers to their most pressing problems and, thus, see few reasons to support industrial relations through grants, research projects and institutional support. Even the ILO, which is industrial relations’ soul mate and long-time partner, has in a quiet and unobtrusive way downgraded the priority given to the field. The EU is the] largest exception to this phenomenon and is an important reason why European industrial relations is in a relatively robust condition.
Comparative employment relations, like every (Strauss, 1970) social institution, can only survive if it attracts outside resources from sponsors or “paying customers” to cover ongoing costs of operation. Increasingly, three of its major sponsors have backed away and allocated their resources elsewhere. Every social institution, to survive, must also provide sufficient benefits to members to keep them from leaving for better opportunities.
Industrial relations is also in danger of failing this test, witnessed by declining membership in some industrial relations associations, falling circulation among some prominent industrial relations journals, and declining attendance at some industrial relations conferences. As we peer into the future, therefore, we must conclude that it looks less than bright. For better or worse, as things stand today the fate of employment relations is heavily bound up with the fate of organized labour. Like the world’s glaciers, labour movements across the globe are slowly retreating and shrinking.
One can argue that this is undesirable and should not be the case. Or a reasonable argument is that the contradictions of capitalism and tendency of employers to overreach will bring about a new Labour Problem and resurgence of unions. Alternatively, perhaps industrial relations and trade unionism have performed their historic mission of containing the Labour Problem and Red Threat and social injustice in early capitalism and can now shuffle off the stage – public-spirited victims of their own success.
Conclusion This paper examined international comparative employment relations and some of the reasons justifying it as a study. It also identified and critically discussed some of the difficulties and pitfalls engaging in this academic enterprise. There are practical and technical difficulties associated with international comparative analysis, such as differences between countries in the way which strikes are measured. Comparative employment relations must ave either a compelling toolkit of theory and methods to justify its existence or a compelling set of real-life problems to solve for which it has a comparative expertise. Both are in question at the moment, so the short-term future could well be judged as relatively gloomy. Then, of course, there is also the problem of the name of the field – the fact that industrial relations sounds increasingly old-fashioned and wedded to a smokestack blue-collar economy, and whether some new term, such as employment relations, can serve as a popular and effective substitute.
Combined with equally interesting work in socio-economics, behavioural economics and other heterodox fields, the possibility exists for constructing a much stronger theoretical base for industrial relations. With a stronger base of theory, industrial relations will be better positioned not only to promote interesting science building but will also be able to better advance and defend its policy programme against the inevitable neoclassical and neo-liberal attack.
To the degree that a resuscitated institutional economics yields interesting insights and implications about alternative modes of regulation and working rules in the employment sphere, industrial relations gains a valuable conceptual tool for thinking about new institutional architectures for workplace governance and new labour policies that better match the new economy and new workforce.
Alternatively, if through institutional economics industrial relations can develop an integrative theory of the employment relationship, the field will be well-positioned to reclaim its original broad territory in the social sciences as “the study of all aspects of employment”. REFERENCES Ackers P and Payne J (2002) British trade unions and social partnership: Rhetoric reality and strategy international journal of human resource management Albeda W (1986) European industrial relations in a time of crisis in P Drenth et al eds Handbook of work and organisational psychology New York John Wiley
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