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Volume 59 | Number 3 Article 81


The Global Evolution of Industrial Relations:

Events, Ideas, and the IIRA.
Bruce E. Kaufman
Georgia State University

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The Global Evolution of Industrial Relations: Events, Ideas, and the IIRA.
history and development of industrial relations

This book review is available in ILRReview: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/ilrreview/vol59/iss3/81


The Global Evolution of Industrial Relations:

Events, Ideas, and the IIRA, 1
by Bruce E. Kaufman

Editor’s Introduction by George R. Boyer *

The past century has seen the rise and, in rica, and Latin America, and the important
the United States and several other indus- roles played by the ILO and the Interna-
trialized nations, the decline of the field of tional Industrial Relations Association
industrial relations. The Global Evolution of (IIRA). Finally, he addresses the decline in
Industrial Relations: Events, Ideas, and the industrial relations in many industrialized
IIRA, by Bruce E. Kaufman, examines the nations and its vitality in several countries
field of industrial relations from its early within the European Union. Kaufman con-
twentieth century origins as “a strategy and cludes that the field “must have a future”
set of tactics developed by social reformers” because, without a program of industrial
in the United States to keep the Labour relations to “humanize, professionalize,
Problem “from boiling over into destruc- democratize, stabilize and balance the
tive class struggle” through its globaliza- labour market process and employment
tion after the Second World War and up to relationship,” global capitalism could “turn
its present period of decline. The study is dysfunctional and quite possibly self-de-
comparative as well as historical, tracing struct.”
the spread of industrial relations to the The Global Evolution of Industrial Relations
United Kingdom in the 1930s, to Australia, is an important addition to the small but
Canada, and New Zealand in the 1950s, and growing literature on the history of the
to continental Europe and the rest of the field of industrial relations. Because of the
world after 1960. Along the way, Kaufman breadth of the book, the editors of the ILR
examines recent trends in industrial rela- Review believe that it should be reviewed
tions in North America, Europe, Asia, Af- both by an industrial relations scholar and
by a labor historian. We therefore invited
John T. Delaney, Associate Dean for MBA
Programs at the Eli Broad Graduate School
of Management, Michigan State Univer-
*George R. Boyer is Professor of Labor Econom- sity, and Howell J. Harris, Professor of His-
ics, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell
University, and an Associate Editor of the Industrial
tory at Durham University, to contribute
and Labor Relations Review. reviews of the book. We express our appre-
Geneva: International Labour Office, 2004. xxv, ciation to these critics for their excellent
722 pp. ISBN 92-2-114153-5, $74.95 (cloth). commentaries on an important book.

Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 59, No. 3 (April 2006). © by Cornell University.
0019-7939/00/5903 $01.00


Comment by John T. Delaney

The Flattening of Industrial Relations

In 1992, Francis Fukuyama created a stir decent jobs, promote industrial peace, and
with his book, The End of History. Time has allow American industry to prosper.
shown that it was not the end. By contrast, Kaufman regards the field’s origination in
Bruce Kaufman’s book could have been America as surprising, given that “the field’s
titled The End of Industrial Relations, as the most towering intellectual work” (p. 586),
assessments, inferences, and conclusions the Webbs’ Industrial Democracy, was Brit-
suggest a bleak, if not dire, outlook for the ish. The field developed an American char-
future of the field.2 To Kaufman’s credit, acter and flourished for five decades be-
he did not intend this, and even suggests fore descending to its current state.
some “rays of hope” (p. 629) for the field. IR did emerge in Britain and many other
But the facts speak for themselves, and countries, albeit at a later date. Whenever
Kaufman’s comprehensive historical com- and wherever the field emerged, however,
pilation and assessment of the field of in- it seemed to follow the same “inverted V”–
dustrial relations (IR) suggests that the end shaped trajectory of growth followed by
of the field as we have known it may be at decline. In the United States, for example,
hand. after the field’s early ideas were adopted as
My intention is not to attempt a close public policy and workers secured some
review of twelve chapters containing 631 protections at work—through laws and
pages of historical detail on the evolution unions—difficulties and differences
and state of IR across the world. Moreover, emerged. IR’s hallmark “big tent” seemed
readers familiar with Kaufman’s work know no longer to cover important workplace
that it tends to be dense—full of detail— subjects, such as human resource manage-
and this book is no exception. Because the ment (HRM), organizational behavior
dense exposition defies succinct descrip- (OB), and important new areas such as
tion, I provide a general overview of the negotiation and conflict management out-
book, outline some strengths and weak- side of union settings. This, inadvertently
nesses, and offer observations about or by design, caused the field to become
Kaufman’s conclusions and the future of focused on labor-management relations at
the field. Most of my discussion is con- a time when global markets were beginning
cerned with the book’s latter half, which to erode the union power forged in the
focuses on IR’s global expansion, current organizing battles of the 1930s. The net
circumstances, and future prospects. result was that by the 1980s it had be-
The book provides an expansive history come obvious that IR was in serious
of the field, extending Kaufman’s other trouble as a field. It was no longer on the
recent writing. It contends that IR emerged cutting edge of academic research, pub-
in the United States as John R. Commons lic policy, or solutions to perceived na-
and others articulated practical ideas for tional problems. It no longer attracted
solving the vexing “labor problem” facing the top university students. The field’s
the country. In particular, the field’s leaders were decreasingly involved in
founders sought to identify ways to create major government reform efforts. As the
union movement declined, IR followed
in tandem. By the 1990s, IR programs
began to close their doors and IR’s pro-
Indeed, Robert Taylor (2005) titled his review of fessional organization in the United
Kaufman’s book “The End of Industrial Relations.” States was in serious decline. In such a

setting, predictions of the field’s death 87). Interestingly, as Kaufman notes, “The
were unsurprisingly frequent (see Purcell central insight from the historical analysis
1993; Roche 2000). If, at best, as Wood in this volume is that the problem-solving
(2000:2) noted, “the trends of the past approach of industrial relations narrowed
twenty years need not amount to the ‘end both over time and as it moved outward to
of industrial relations,’ they do expose other countries” (p. 623). There is no
weaknesses in its foundation.” single explanation for the narrowing, but
Kaufman, whose Origins and Evolution of its occurrence helped shape the current
the Field of Industrial Relations in the United state of the field. A key implication of this,
States (1993) earned him a Dr. Doom repu- as articulated by Roche (2000), is that in-
tation among some, is well aware of these ternational descriptions of IR regimes are
dire predictions and the field’s weaknesses. better characterized by contingency than
He brings to this new book the same dili- convergence.
gent approach that served him so well in Third, Kaufman is true to the underlying
the earlier one. The Global Evolution of values of the field. He is concerned about
Industrial Relations has three clear strengths. the role of equity at work and in society. He
First, it is comprehensive. There can be no addresses the split between institutional
doubt that Kaufman has read and internal- labor economics (ILE) and personnel man-
ized virtually all of the field’s early litera- agement (PM). He deals with the partisan
ture (at least that written in English) and political debates that have captured the
that he has provided an excellent synthesis field over time. He pays due notice to the
of the work. Moreover, because the eco- tensions and frictions characterizing a field
nomic roots of IR are strong, Kaufman’s that bridges the interests of labor and
formidable knowledge of institutional eco- capital. Whether Kaufman is a strict IR
nomics ensures an accurate and measured constructionist is unclear. That he knows
assessment of the literature. the field’s nature and development is
Second, the book uses history to place unquestionable.
IR’s key debates in perspective. For ex- The book has two main limitations. First,
ample, does IR encompass all aspects of the the level of detail Kaufman provides on the
work relationship, or does it refer only to history of IR in the United States, Britain,
things unionized? This seemingly esoteric and Canada is not matched in his assess-
question is especially relevant to scholars ments of the field in other countries. While
today as they decide what to study and this gap probably does not affect Kaufman’s
where to submit their research for publica- conclusions about the state of the field in
tion. Are the thriving fields of negotiations other nations, it generates an uneasy feel-
and workplace justice part of IR, for ex- ing about the field’s situation outside of
ample, or do they belong to some other the big western English-speaking countries.
discipline? Kaufman also addresses the Admittedly, this may be due to the lack of
field’s largely unsuccessful quest for theory literature (especially English language lit-
and its apparent second-class citizenship in erature) on IR in these nations. Whatever
comparison with the field of economics. the cause, however, a consequence is that it
He uses historical facts to trump some of is difficult for readers to assess the nature
IR’s urban legends. For example, he points of the role played by the IIRA in promoting
out that IR as a field grew because of private the field across the globe. In addition, the
support from wealthy industrialists, not the unevenness complicates predictions about
rise of unions (p. 626). He also uses history the direction and future of the field outside
to suggest an interesting hypothesis as to the United States.
why the field did not originate in Britain: Second, I wonder whether one of the
Sidney Webb needed to emphasize other book’s strengths is also a weakness. Specifi-
areas of study as he sought to secure dona- cally, the historical focus used by Kaufman
tions from the business sector to build the to analyze IR may have unnecessarily re-
London School of Economics (pp. 178– stricted the analysis. Kaufman frames IR

issues in the classic manner used by the Kaufman’s insights was that IR advanced in
Wisconsin School, namely from the per- no small part because of the idiosyncratic
spective of the “labor problem.” This ap- efforts of individuals—the great men and
proach gave the field a broad wake at its women of the field. If this is true, the field’s
inception, but may be limiting when used future will depend on whether Andy Stern
to understand the field in other nations or proves to be this generation’s Walter
in contemporary times. Admittedly, this Reuther and whether the titans of today’s
may be an unfair criticism given Kaufman is wealthy industries, such as Gates, Buffett,
providing a history of the field. But the and the Waltons, will support efforts to
approach seems to lead the analysis to stan- identify and promote ways to improve work-
dard IR solutions despite the fact that some ers’ circumstances. Currently, the pros-
of the most critical “labor problems” facing pects for such positive developments ap-
the United States (and the world) today pear remote. It may be that on this ques-
seem to be resistant to those solutions. For tion, although the clock has not run out,
example, globalization threatens to reduce the field’s luck has.
the living standards in many traditionally Second, will IR’s decline coincide with a
well-off nations, even as it raises living stan- result vindicating Karl Marx? Kaufman
dards in other parts of the world. How will recognizes the important role that the writ-
the newly impoverished workers and the ings of Marx played in the development of
newly enriched ones react? What will each IR. Marx, he argues, along with the Webbs,
group expect and demand? One of IR’s had “unsurpassed influence” on the field of
problems is that the field has not tended to IR. But he views Marx’s influence as having
address these questions in anything other been on the dark side: “his great influence
than standard ways—for example, by call- was to present a vision of capitalist society
ing for collective action to level the playing so compellingly dire and dark that it moved
field with employers. Perhaps because of the defenders of capitalism to mount a
familiarity with traditional IR approaches major counter-response” (p. 586). With
or sentimental attachment to unions, col- the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the
lective organization and bargaining are general conclusion that communism failed,
seen as the solution to every workplace contemporary sentiment (academic and
problem. Although there is nothing political) is that Marx was wrong. Ironi-
wrong with collective bargaining, its abil- cally, the forces unleashed by globalization
ity to address problems is compromised and technological advance may resurrect
in a global marketplace that keeps wages the question. Few have considered the
in competition. Industrial democracy possibility that today’s global economic
may no longer be obtainable within plants developments could precipitate class war-
or business units or firms operating in a fare. Widening class divisions could be-
competitive environment. Kaufman’s come especially noticeable to those U.S.
adoption of the standard analysis pre- workers who, because of globalization, are
vents him from contemplating nonstand- made clearly and conspicuously less well
ard answers, such as the possibility that off than were their parents and grandpar-
unionization and bargaining offer work- ents. This may not lead to an armed revo-
ers less protection than ever before (more lution, but it could lead to a political one.
on this below). And it would be ironic indeed if a move-
Kaufman’s book generates many ideas ment proving Marx right gathered force
about the future. I hope it will stimulate a under the eyes of scholars and politicians
no-holds-barred debate. Partly as a result who continued to discount him.
of its particular strengths and limitations, Third, does it matter that the number of
the book gives rise to at least four questions IR scholars has sunk below critical mass and
that need to be considered by the IR com- that remaining IR programs survive by
munity. First, is the future of the field emphasizing HRM? These are interrelated
going to be determined by chance? One of questions to the extent that student enroll-

ments drive the demand for IR faculty. As Fourth, why is the field declining at a
interest in unions and collective bargain- time when IR issues are growing in impor-
ing has declined, IR programs have sur- tance? The “labor problem” is at the heart
vived in part by educating students inter- of some of the most critical dilemmas fac-
ested in HRM. This strategy faces chal- ing the United States (and the world) to-
lenges from two trends—one business and day. For example, U.S. workers’ adjust-
one academic. ment to globalization is hindered by the
Over time, businesses have increasingly lack of portability of pensions and health
asked HRM recruits to have an understand- care. Issues of this kind are similar to those
ing of business fundamentals; such knowl- stressed by John R. Commons and his asso-
edge is essential as HRM is expected to ciates when the field of IR developed.
show evidence of a positive contribution to Moreover, education and employment is-
the bottom line. This trend has caused sues related to immigration are also impor-
some employers to seek MBA students for tant today and relevant to IR. Many factors
HRM jobs. For IR programs to provide the can be cited as contributing to the current
education desired by recruiters, it is in- situation—the September 11, 2001 ter-
creasingly necessary to offer training in rorist attacks; the priorities of the Bush
normal business subjects as well as special- administration and the leadership in
ized HRM courses. In turn, this blurs the Congress; indifference by some employer
line between IR programs and business groups; partisanship—but it is still odd
programs. If universities choose to avoid that the field declines as its subject mat-
redundancy in programs, it is more likely ter becomes more important. To some
that an IR program will be sacrificed for the extent, members of the field are complicit
business school than the reverse. For IR in this problem. We have not advanced
programs to survive in this environment, the issues in a way that has captured the
they may need to operate as pseudo-busi- public’s imagination.
ness schools, with uncertain implications To some extent, the traditional approach
for the field. Will the field be affected, for in IR may be losing relevance (for a con-
example, if it is assumed some day that the trasting view, see Kochan 2005). For ex-
School sponsoring this journal is Cornell’s ample, one part of the problem is that work
de facto undergraduate business school? today is increasingly comprised of “assign-
On the academic side, the field’s cohort ments” rather than “jobs.” Long-term com-
of scholars is breaking apart as job opportu- mitments between employers and employ-
nities disappear. Jarley, Chandler, and ees are dwindling, in part because such
Faulk (2001) examined publication pat- commitments introduce more cost, fric-
terns in leading IR journals and wondered tion, and bureaucracy into the global mar-
whether “IR journals will continue to pro- ketplace than organizations desire. As fewer
vide a venue for sustaining a coherent, and fewer firms are able to continue find-
cumulative literature that will distinguish ing adequate productivity enhancement in
the field from other areas” (p. 343). Essen- the traditional job structure, more of them
tially, “casual authorship” by individuals are being forced to adopt an assignment
outside of IR appears to be coming to domi- approach. There is no doubt that as this
nate IR journals. This both shapes and change occurs, it shifts potentially large
reflects the reduction of academic IR posi- new burdens and risks onto workers.
tions. As this occurs, IR becomes increas- Whether we like the result or not, however,
ingly defined by non-IR scholars and the the shift is taking place and will be difficult
remaining bastions of the field become to slow.
increasingly segregated. Shrinkage in the In an assignment world, workers’ success
number of scholars dedicated specifically depends not on having a great union repre-
to IR cannot help the field, and reliance on sentative but on having an unbeatable set
HRM does not guarantee stabilization of of skills. Thomas Friedman (2005) has
that number. asserted that the world today is “flat” and

competition in a flat world is no longer Although the fate of IR may already be

between nations or even companies—it is determined, there are many rays of hope
among individuals. In such a world, tradi- for a field that looks at today’s critical work-
tional workplace mediating institutions related issues. The key to unlocking the
have less to offer workers or employers hope is to move beyond IR’s standard ap-
than they had before. To the extent that IR proach. This includes recognizing that
is tied to the belief that workplace equity competition among workers is going to in-
can only be provided by the introduction of crease just as competition among firms has
a third-party representative, the field is in increased. In such a situation, workers can
an untenable position. And to the extent achieve stability only when they possess
that unions focus on this specialty, they will top-of-the-line or adaptable skills. If IR’s
generate lower support. For unions to basic purposes are to “humanize, stabilize,
thrive, they must emphasize as never be- professionalize, democratize, and balance
fore a function with which they already the market system” (p. 631), then it must
have some experience: identifying ways to do so in a way that promotes individual skill
help workers develop current and adapt- building, flexibility, and efficiency.
able skills. In a flat world, the sets of skills Kaufman’s book shows us where the field
workers acquire will, in the end, determine has been. Friedman’s book indicates where
who in society (and which society) wins and the world is going. IR must adapt to the flat
who loses. world or be flattened by that world.

Comment by Howell John Harris

Industrial Relations: A Field in Search of a Future?

But Don’t Worr y, Bruce Kaufman Has Done the Past

This is an enormous book—hence the been perfect—at times it sags badly.

ILR Review’s decision that a division of la- Kaufman evidently likes lists, and his book
bor was the only fair way of treating its often turns into a catalogue weighed down
chosen reviewers (and also the author, who with potted plot-summaries of key texts in
could not expect to encounter any single the history of industrial relations, narra-
reviewer whose knowledge of the field is as tives of institutional developments that can
compendious as his own). It is also a curi- never have been especially compelling even
ous work—a combination of history of ideas to the key participants at the time, and lots
(though Kaufman is emphatically not an of names of people and organizations asso-
intellectual historian), institutional history, ciated with the early development of IR in
and commemorative volume—that would countries outside its Anglo-American home-
surely have acquired neither its bulk nor its lands, as if Kaufman is desperate to men-
hybrid character without its, presumably tion almost everybody. Much of the re-
generous, ILO sponsorship. It cannot be search on which it is based is synthetic, and
said to be an easy read. Never lively— most of the sources are journal articles,
though, considering how much Kaufman books, and official publications, to which
writes, it is almost unreasonable to expect Kaufman’s work therefore provides a valu-
him to have style as well as content, or, for able bibliographical guide. He has also
that matter, for the proofreading to have worked through ILO and IIRA records, and

interviewed a whole host of the Grand Old Problem” (p. 35) and in answering the
Men of the business. Kaufman uses the question why this produced what became
Harvard system rather than proper foot- the scholarly field of Industrial Relations in
noting to cite all this material, a quite un- Britain and the United States rather than in
reasonable imposition on the reader of a Imperial Germany, given the vital intellec-
text of these biblical proportions, espe- tual contributions of German historical-
cially as it permits Kaufman to refer to social economics to it. His answer is essen-
entire secondary works when he is summa- tially political: IR, with its pluralist, reform-
rizing their conclusions rather than to the ist, accommodationist, even managerialist
particular sections he is actually drawing vision, was a product of, and a natural fit
on; only when there is a direct quote do we within, the two most democratic of the
get a helpful page reference. This tech- advanced capitalist states, which developed
nique may be acceptable in a social science their own strategies of incorporating their
journal article, but it breaks down in a work emerging working classes into the political
of history with 631 pages of main text and culture and preventing industrial conflicts
52 pages of bibliography, one where the from generating larger social turbulence.
reader needs to be helped along, not tripped This is entirely plausible, though hardly
up by brackets in almost every paragraph. original.
Also ill-advised was the author’s frequent In Chapter 2, “The Birth and Early De-
use of the historic present when discussing velopment of Industrial Relations: North
past events or research. Consistent use of America,” Kaufman comes as near hitting a
the simple past tense in such cases would stride as his technique permits. There is
have removed another bone from this the same catalogue feel to the text—bullet-
reader’s throat. pointed lists (pp. 128–30), paragraphs
Cavils aside, this is a book worth reading. started “First” to “Eighth” (by which time
It requires patience and persistence: the the reader is flagging; there is even a “Ninth,
first time I tried, the beginning almost put and finally,” on p. 115). But, as one would
me to sleep. Chapter 1, “The Roots of expect of the author of The Origins and
Industrial Relations,” stretching almost Evolution of the Field of Industrial Relations in
from the dawn of time (or at least the late the United States (1993), Kaufman has some-
eighteenth century) until the First World thing interesting and distinctive to say;
War, and concentrating on Britain and though, to readers of his earlier book at
Europe, is dry and dull and really adds very least, not especially new. Kaufman’s grasp
little, except for a sense of completeness of the historical background of America in
that seems to have satisfied Kaufman’s zeal the late Progressive Era, World War I and
to cover everything, however sketchily. But its aftermath, and the 1920s is sometimes a
perhaps this is just a historian’s reaction; little shaky, and the unproblematic
industrial relations practitioners may need exceptionalism of his one-paragraph dis-
to be reminded about something called the cussion of American culture and conscious-
Industrial Revolution, which happened ness (p. 126) would probably make intellec-
once upon a distant time (or so some people tual historians reach for their guns; but his
think), and they may value some rather understanding of the ideological and policy
rudimentary plot-summaries of the works reaction to the industrial relations crises of
of Adam Smith, Karl Marx (“Another clas- the late ‘teens is more confidence-inspir-
sical economist,” p. 47), and other intellec- ing. He provides a good narrative of devel-
tual contributors to the definition and dis- opments in the study and teaching of in-
cussion of the emerging “Labour Problem.” dustrial relations in some U.S. universities,
A second reading of the chapter is more the practice of personnel management in a
rewarding, because then one can begin to growing minority of large and progressive
see the merits of Kaufman’s approach: he firms, and the intellectual outlooks and
is interested in “the intellectual and policy resulting policy advocacy of members of
effort to defuse and contain the Labour both of the schools of practitioners he iden-

tified in his earlier work—ILE (institutional conclusions about the present state and
labor economics) and PM (personnel man- future prospects of the IR profession in its
agement). Kaufman’s background is in American homeland. The outline of his
labor economics, and it shows: he is at his argument is probably familiar to many read-
most original and fluent when discussing ers: in and after the 1930s, IR turned its
institutional economics as the intellectual back on much of its own history, and be-
core of the ILE school, in particular, in came narrowly defined as the study, opera-
these early years (pp. 95–116). He also tion, and defense of the post–New Deal
explains very well the ethical roots of their system of “workplace contractualism,” to
reformist commitments, which found prac- use David Brody’s term for “voluntarist”
tical expression in their problem-solving collective bargaining within an originally
involvement with the real world of workers, supportive, but increasingly restrictive, le-
unions, and management. Kaufman is prob- gal and administrative framework. After
ably more impressed by the practical some decades in the doldrums, Kaufman’s
achievements of his PM school in shaping PM tradition reemerged as Organizational
corporate policy in the 1920s than he should Behavior within the academy, and as posi-
be, but he is spot-on in identifying the tive human resource management within a
cultural prestige of managerial progressiv- corporate world freeing itself from the in-
ism at this time and, in one of his most cubus of trade unionism. These, not old-
original insights, demonstrating its impact fashioned IR, turned out to be the shapers
on the outlook of labor relations scholars, of the future. What had seemed to be a
starting with John R. Commons himself. sidetrack turns out to have had the locomo-
Kaufman has rediscovered two of tive of history running down it. The result
Commons’s neglected works, Industrial is a growing crisis of intellectual respect-
Goodwill (1916) and Industrial Government ability, self-confidence, and relevance for
(1921), as well as an important summary of IR practitioners within the United States:
1920s managerial progressivism, published the New Deal labor relations system that
when its tide had gone out—C. Canby nurtured them has gone down the tubes;
Balderston’s Executive Guidance of Industrial perhaps they are fated to do the same,
Relations (1935)—and the insight that re- joining other antiquated crafts (saggar-
sults is that, in the 1920s, ILE scholars made makers’ bottom-knockers and others) in
their peace with corporate America, or at the dustbin of history, or at best lingering
least with its liberal variant. Trade union- on in a sort of living museum or reserva-
ism and social regulation were for those tion. They are trying to reinvent or at least
parts of the labor market that an enlight- re-badge themselves, the IRRA turning it-
ened capitalism could not reach. The “la- self into the Labor and Employment Rela-
bor problems” approach had always been tions Association, as if this will make a
merely reformist; its readiness to accom- significant difference to its fate. Perhaps,
modate itself to the requirements of a dy- Kaufman seems to be saying, they are pay-
namic capitalist economy and the defense ing the price for taking a wrong turning
of managerial rights and functions, and its seventy years ago; the temporary fusion
preference for “private ordering, decen- between his ILE and PM schools in the
tralized decision making, and voluntary 1920s, largely on the latter’s terms, offered,
agreement” (p. 130), would prove to be and perhaps still offers, a better way of
very significant for its future, post–New making their recommendations relevant to
Deal, incarnation. a near union-free, business-dominated
Kaufman’s history of this New Era com- America than the tired repetition of homi-
ing-together between his two streams in the lies from IR’s post–New Deal “Golden Age.”
U.S. industrial relations tradition serves an Chapter 3, “Early Industrial Relations in
important purpose in the overall scheme of Europe: The United Kingdom, the ILO,
his book: the latter chapters, whose review and the IRI,” takes Kaufman and his read-
is assigned to my colleague, reach grim ers off into less familiar territory. His

method is much the same, a focus on Sidney is one with which many labor and business
and Beatrice Webb taking the place of Chap- historians would agree: the Wagner Act
ter 2’s extensive discussion of Commons. was an aberration within the American po-
But nothing of importance is neglected— litical economy, only explicable by the ex-
the birth of the LSE, the contributions of ceptional circumstances of the Great De-
G.D.H. Cole, the establishment of the first pression; the growth of the post-New Deal
chairs in industrial relations at British uni- labor movement further depended on un-
versities. He also addresses, not altogether usually favorable conditions within wartime
convincingly, the apparent paradox that and postwar labor and product markets.
the institutionalization of the study and The tragedy, or at least error, of the Ameri-
practice of IR proceeded much more slowly can IR business was to come to think of
in Britain despite the pioneering intellec- these conditions as normal and permanent,
tual contributions of the Webbs and the when they were anything but. When cir-
presence of a labor movement much stron- cumstances changed, IR professionals
ger than that in the United States. Kaufman would have no new or useful answers, sim-
is at his weakest when he indulges in ply a tool-kit of practices for which there
culturalist explanations for difference, and was less and less demand, and hoary old
at his best when he follows the money trail— policy recommendations commanding less
the demand for IR professionals’ services, and less of a respectful or even attentive
the supply of corporate and foundation audience. In dealing with this “Golden
resources for capacity-building in universi- Age,” Kaufman is as usual encyclopedic,
ties—which better explains the outcome. discussing the Human Relations movement
The chapter also contains a useful intro- of the 1940s and 1950s, developments within
duction to the early history of the ILO, labor economics, the growth of IR pro-
together with an explanation for its trade- grams at American universities, and the
union orientation, and a brief account of founding of the IRRA as a leading profes-
the Industrial Relations Institute (IRI) at sional body, in theory for all academics and
The Hague 1925–39, which brought an practitioners with an interest in matters of
American “PM” perspective to the heart of labor and employment, in practice mostly
Europe. for those wedded to the New Deal model.
In Chapter 4, “American Industrial Rela- There is the usual competent summary of
tions in the Golden Age,” Kaufman is back field-defining researchers’ work, with John
on home territory. He starts with the New Dunlop and Clark Kerr filling the shoes
Deal, whose labor reforms, “due to several earlier occupied by Commons and the
ironic and unexpected twists and turns, … Webbs.
irreparably split the industrial relations Chapter 5, “The Institutionalization of
community and helped contribute to a Industrial Relations in Australasia, Canada,
gradual divorce between the PM school of and the United Kingdom,” really takes up
progressive employers and the ILE school where Chapter 3 left off and explains the
of institutional labour economists” (p. 222). rise to academic prominence and, for a
The Wagner Act is Kaufman’s “turning while, in the 1960s and early 1970s, politi-
point” (p. 226), as it is for so many labor cal influence of the “Oxford School” of
historians. It helped usher in the world in British labor specialists. Here as elsewhere
which the IR profession would prosper; but Kaufman is an informative guide—a good
it also contained the seeds of their current explainer, synthesizing the conventional
crisis, because it encouraged them to put wisdom. There is a sustained comparison
all their money on trade unions, collective (pp. 268–78) of the differences—in em-
bargaining, “voluntarist” dispute settle- phasis, outlook, class background, political
ment, and “pluralist” labor law. For de- commitments, and even readiness to incor-
cades the bet paid off, but eventually the porate a broader interdisciplinary research
old nag ran out of steam, stumbled, and agenda—between the closely related worlds
died. The essence of Kaufman’s argument of British and American IR scholars during

the overlapping periods when both were at have to confess to cheating—by the time I
the zenith of their self-confidence and im- reached page 299 I was hooked, and read
portance. The sections on the smaller, less- the other 330 too. Other readers will prob-
studied Anglophone nations are interest- ably do the same. What turns Kaufman’s
ing because readers (including this re- book into more than a compendium, and
viewer) are likely to know much less about what will probably attract most attention
them, but Kaufman’s approach is more from an American readership, is his sense
descriptive than analytical, almost genea- of the historically grounded crisis of the
logical indeed in digging up the provincial modern American labor relations system
fathers of these small emerging communi- and of those IR professionals most closely
ties of IR professionals. attached to it. American readers might not
And here my commission from the edi- agree with his prescriptions and predic-
tors ended. It is a curious challenge to tions, with which my colleague will deal;
review half a book, and not know what the but they will find Chapters 2 and 4 a useful
other reviewer has made of the rest of it. I introduction to why the crisis came to pass.


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