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Paradigms in Industrial Relations: Original, Modern and Versions In-between


  • Bruce E. Kaufman


This article argues that the industrial relations (IR) field has had two distinct paradigms - an original paradigm centred on the employment relationship, and a modern paradigm centred on unions and labour-management relations. In practice, IR scholars in the decades after the Second World War frequently adopted the former as a broad principle but followed the latter in research and teaching. The narrower labour-management paradigm has created a significant survival challenge for the IR field, given the marked long-term decline in union density in most countries. I join with others in arguing that to survive and prosper in the years ahead, the field needs to return to an updated version of the original 'employment relationship' paradigm. To promote this end, I describe the major features of the original paradigm, including its core positive and normative principle. I also outline how this core principle provides the foundation for an integrative IR theory of the employment relationship, which the field greatly needs to move ahead. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2008.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce E. Kaufman, 2008. "Paradigms in Industrial Relations: Original, Modern and Versions In-between," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 46(2), pages 314-339, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:brjirl:v:46:y:2008:i:2:p:314-339

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sue Fernie & David Metcalf, 2005. "Trade Unions: Resurgence or Demise?," CentrePiece - The Magazine for Economic Performance 178, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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    1. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:11:p:1992-:d:117103 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:kap:jbuset:v:142:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10551-016-3084-z is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Giovanni Costa & Arnaldo Camuffo, 2014. "The evolution of human resource management in Italy: a historical-institutional perspective," Chapters,in: The Development of Human Resource Management Across Nations, chapter 11, pages 269-299 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Bruce E. Kaufman, 2014. "History of the British Industrial Relations Field Reconsidered: Getting from the Webbs to the New Employment Relations Paradigm," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 52(1), pages 1-31, March.
    5. Stewart, Alex & Miner, Anne S., 2011. "The prospects for family business in research universities," Journal of Family Business Strategy, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 3-14, March.
    6. Patrick Dieuaide & Violaine Delteil, 2010. "Human Resource Management and Labour Union Strategies: Survey Results from French Multinationals Located in Central and Eastern Europe," Economic Studies journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 2, pages 27-53.

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