Differences in definition derive partly from the fact that, despite a long history of academic investigation, no single disciplinary core has yet emerged in descriptions and explanations of industrial relations behaviour. Today, therefore, work in the subject includes the following: historical and contemporary aspects of the law of labour contract; the difference in theory and practice between wage-fixing by negotiated rules as opposed to competitive or free-market processes; reasons for state involvement in labour relations together with historical and contemporary aspects of the politics of employer–employee bargaining; the normative basis of wage differentials and wage negotiation; historical and contemporary causes of industrial conflict and its relation to class conflict; the relationships between the organized and unorganized sectors of the labour-force; labour-market segmentation and dualism; the relationship of employment and wage policy to social policy; training, skill, and unemployment.
Sociologists, historians, economists, psychologists, lawyers, and others continue to make contributions, often with scant regard for each other. In recent years the notion of industrial relations systems ( J. T. Dunlop , Industrial Relations Systems, 1958
, and T. A. Kochan et al. , The Transformation of American Industrial Relations, 1986
) has been regarded as bringing a degree of unity into studies of the field. Critics of the notion argue that it is incomplete, unhelpfully static in conception, and too broad in scope to be more than a classification device with little or no explanatory power. See also LABOUR PROCESS; PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT; TRUST AND DISTRUST.
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