Mapping the frontier of theory in industrial relations: the contested role of worker representation – University of Copenhagen

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24 February 2015

Mapping the frontier of theory in industrial relations: the contested role of worker representation

The widespread decline of trade unions and the emergence of various alternative forms of worker voice and representation have posed a challenge to the field of industrial relations and generated significant rethinking of the future directions for this field of study. In this article Christian Lyhne Ibsen, Maite Tapia and Thomas A. Kochan examine how well industrial relations meta-theories, when combined with efforts to build middle-range theories, provide distinctive explanations and different predictions for the alternatives that have emerged to date to fill the void. We propose new directions for theory and research that expand the range of actors or institutions that shape employment relations and include social identities outside of the employment relationship as the basis for mobilizing collective actions and voice. Finally, we suggest using these theoretical arguments to test among alternatives as a means of revitalizing and reshaping industrial relations as well as carrying forward the problem-solving norms that have characterized the field since its inception.

Maite Tapia, Christian Lyhne Ibsen and Thomas A. Kochan: Mapping the frontier of theory in industrial relations: the contested role of worker representation; Socio-Economic Review; 2015