Organization studies and industrial relations: Overlapping concerns and new possibilities
Sub-theme for EGOS 2017, 33rd EGOS Colloquium, Copenhagen Business School (CBS)
Markus Helfen, Freie Universität Berlin firstname.lastname@example.org
Andreas Pekarek, The University of Melbourne Andreas.email@example.com
Rick Delbridge, Cardiff University DelbridgeR@cardiff.ac.uk
Today’s relationship between organization studies and industrial relations research is marked by a strange absence of dialogue. In contrast to earlier periods (Child et al., 1973; Maurice et al., 1980; Streeck, 1981) and in spite of a common theoretical heritage (e.g. Jackson & Müllenborn, 2012), much of the present theorizing in organization studies ignores or obscures the fact that the bulk of organizational activity is undertaken by employees working under formal contracts of employment; hence, labour and employment relations are an important area for theorizing organizations (e.g. Vidal, Adler & Delbridge, 2015). Yet insights from industrial relations research are largely absent from organization studies, and vice versa. In the aftermath of the 2008/2009 crisis, organization scholars have realized anew that organizational practices influence and produce inequality between workers within firms as well as within society, and are themselves affected by societal inequalities (Lawrence et al. 2013; Gray & Kish-Gephart, 2013; Stainback et al., 2010). However, there remains an almost complete neglect of the idea that labour’s voice through unions, collective bargaining, and workplace representation is a mechanism for reducing inequality that has been undermined by recent trends in corporate strategizing and restructuring.
Equally disturbing, in the field of industrial relations, organization studies’ contributions to understanding organizations and organizing are rarely taken into account explicitly, despite considerable interest in related themes such as organizing the unorganized (e.g. Heery, 2009), changes in the organizational forms of unions and employers (e.g. Behrens & Pekarek, 2012), and how industrial relations shape and are shaped by corporate restructuring (e.g. Helfen & Fichter, 2013). It is our contention that both fields of study are ill-served by this absence of mutual engagement and dialogue.
The subtheme aims to break this silence by reviving the interdisciplinary exchange between the fields of organization studies and industrial relations. By exploring common theoretical ground as well as divergent insights, we invite contributions that reveal how industrial relations helps in understanding how organizations operate in practice, and to uncover how organisation theory assists in resolving puzzles in contemporary industrial relations. Such a dialogue promises insights in at least three important ways: