The academic field known in the English-speaking world as ‘industrial relations’ (IR) has little institutional presence in the universities of continental Europe and those other parts of the world where anglo-saxon modes of analysis are not dominant. Rather than focussing on wider questions of social relations, it has historically concentrated on worker and employer organization and collective behaviour, workplace conflict over work-related matters, and (in particular) the regulation of the formal employment relationship, whether via the law or collective bargaining. Thus, for example, during the 1980s, IR research in the UK was dominated by analyses of the effect of the Thatcher administration’s labour law reforms on collective bargaining and industrial action and on the responses of unions to ‘attacks’ on their established institutional position and prerogatives. One of the most important theoretical developments in this Anglophone research tradition was the publication in 1966 of a paper written for a UK government commission of inquiry into workplace relations. The author, Alan Fox, used this paper to introduce what he called the ‘frames of reference’ approach to IR. His book Beyond Contract, in which he added a third frame of reference to the two he had previously identified, followed in 1974. Since then, IR as an academic discipline has seen few if any truly significant theoretical developments. This paper argues that the essence of Fox’s theory – the idea that subjective conceptual structures condition attitudes and behaviour in economic and organizational contexts – remains valid, but that there is a need both to broaden and to deepen Fox’s work. First of all there is a need to add to the categorisation of ‘ways of seeing’ economic and organizational phenomena. Second, there is a need to better understand how social learning processes lead to the adoption or rejection of different frames of reference. These learning processes include both analyses of the functional efficacy of conceptual models and the evaluation of the outcomes of social action against normative standards. The principal aim of this paper is to address the first of these needs, although it will also make some proposals with respect to the second. The theoretical resources required for these tasks are drawn from the work of Jürgen Habermas. UNITARISM,
AND THE REST ?
Working Paper N°7 / 2011
Conor Cradden est chargé de cours et maître-assistant au
Département de Sociologie de l'Université de Genève.
Département de sociologie
UNITARISM, PLURALISM, RADICALISM... AND THE REST ?
Why the frames of
reference approach is still relevant to the study of industrial relations, but why we need nine frames rather than just three. Conor Cradden
Sociograph - Working Paper n°7 / 2011
Citation conseillée : Conor Cradden (2011). "UNITARISM, PLURALISM, RADICALISM... AND THE REST ? Why the frames of reference approach is still relevant to the study of industrial relations, but why we need nine frames rather than just three." Genève : Université de Genève Publication sur Internet : www.unige.ch/ses/socio/
As Kaufman points out (2004, p.435-6), it has frequently been remarked that the academic field known in the English-speaking world as ‘industrial relations’ (IR) has little institutional presence in the universities of continental Europe and those other parts of the world where anglo-saxon modes of analysis are not dominant. Kaufman traces this absence to a divergence in discursive convention in the 19th century (2004, p.32-35). Whereas in France and Germany, industrial unrest and the relationship between workers and employers was typically thought to be inseparable from the broader context of class, social relations and the political and legal structures of society, in Britain the tendency was to refer not to ‘the social question’ but to ‘the labour problem’, thus focussing much more narrowly on the...
References: Cradden, C. (2005) Repoliticizing Management: A Theory of Corporate Legitimacy, Ashgate, Guildford.
Cradden, C. (2009) “Can we have genuine workplace democracy in the market economy?”, Reimagining Society Project, http://www.zcommunications.org/workplace-democracy-and-markets-by-conor-cradden
Fox, A. (1966) Industrial Sociology and Industrial Relations, HMSO, London.
Fox, A. (1974) Beyond Contract: Work, Power and Trust Relations, Faber & Faber, London
Habermas, J. (1987), The Theory of Communicative Action Volume 2: Lifeworld and System — A Critique of Functionalist Reason (trans. T. McCarthy), Polity, Cambridge.
Habermas, J. (1996), Between Facts and Norms (trans. W. Rehg), MIT Press, Cambridge MA. Kerr, C. (1964), Labour and Management in Industrial Society, Doubleday, Garden City NY.
Kaufman, B. (2004), The Global Evolution of Industrial Relations: Events, Ideas and the IIRA, International Labour Office, Geneva.
Pugh, D. and Hickson, D. (1989), Writers on Organizations, 4th edn., Penguin, Harmondsworth.
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