2292 industrial relations

knowledge than the older tradition of micro
empirical inquiry and ethnographic research.
The orientation in the new business schools
that mushroomed in the US and UK, and to a
lesser degree in continental Europe, promoted
new vocabularies centered on leadership, self
help, and unbridled individualism in pursuit of
personal advancement in the organization. Col
lective solidarity among workers was consigned
to history. Academics in the US developed a
new institutional economics that broke with the
public policy tradition of the old institution
alists (e.g., Kerr, Dunlop, and Reynolds) by
elevating transaction costs, for example the
costs of managing the employment relationship
through an authority relationship as opposed to
spot market hire and fire policies. Established
research centers were closed or starved of
resources. Indeed, in the UK, leading academics
were accused of academic bias in favor of collec
tive bargaining at a time when the government
of the day was seeking to impose highly restric
tive measures on the trade unions.
Did the state offensive against unionism pro
duce new patterns of working and new manage
ment practices that redefined the landscape
of industrial relations? The evidence for the
UK suggests that the new hardline approach
against collective bargaining and worker voice
was counterproductive. It encouraged sloppy
management systems and removed the incen
tive for employers to invest in new technologies
and the up skilling of their employees. UK
businesses pursued a longstanding tradition of
competing in international markets with a low
wage, poorly trained workforce. At the turn of
the twentieth century, productivity levels in the
UK remained significantly lower than in other
European countries and the United States.
Industrial relations have become a major
issue for public policy debate. The UK govern
ment has retreated from the draconian policies
designed to marginalize collective relations in
the workplace, in favor of a renewed attempt to
generate the condition of industrial peace
through institutional arrangements to generate
partnership in the workplace. Current develop
ments would have pleased Montague Burton.
The attempt by policymakers and researchers
to supplant the traditional issues that had for
nearly 100 years formed the agenda for the
practice and subject of industrial relations by
the rather vague and empirically ungrounded
field of human resource management has failed
(Nolan & ODonnell 2003). Unions have begun
to rebuild their activities in the UK with mem
bership gains, and employers are increasingly
keen to harness their influence in the workplace
to bring forward much needed changes to secure
productivity and innovation changes. Slowly and
unevenly there is a creeping shift toward a more
European model of employment relations and a
retreat from the harsher climate of industrial
relations that has characterized work experiences
in the United States. There is an evolving
agenda that will inevitably be shaped by the
impacts of new information and communication
technologies (ICT), global market shifts, and
developments in the shape of organizations and
production politics at workplace level.
The capacity of industrial relations research
ers to engage with these unfolding transforma
tions is demonstrated with explorations into the
meaning and potential of the information age.
The analysis of the implications of ICTs, in
particular the Internet, for the politics and pro
cesses of labor has generated a substantial litera
ture. Debate has been driven by concern with
finding ways of building more effective forms in
the face of the widespread and global crises of
trade unionism, while taking inspiration from
the innovative countercoordination of workers
who have already demonstrated the potential
ities of new ICTs. In South Korea, for example,
the Internet has been identified as central to the
strategy of the Korean Confederation of Trade
Unions to break free from clandestine status,
while in the 19958 unofficial Liverpool dock
ers dispute the Internet was used to generate
the most widespread international simultaneous
solidarity action the labor movement has ever
witnessed (Carter et al. 2003).
Developments in union presence on the
Internet, the routine use of electronic commu
nications, and the sponsorship of practitioner
and academic reflection upon the opportunities
and perils provide clear indication of future
possibilities (Hogan & Grieco 2000). There is
now a widespread availability of communication
technologies that can be utilized at relatively low
and distributed cost and accessed in transit and
from the home, with processing and storage
capacities that are growing exponentially and
which can be readily deployed for the receipt,