IRRU Seminar - Ed Heery
'From industrial disorder to market failure: pluralist industrial relations in an era of neo-liberalism'
Classic IR pluralism quintessentially was an intellectual response to the rise of the industrial working class and was concerned with the development of institutions that could integrate workers into stable, developed societies. In the political sphere these institutions comprised liberal democracy, the welfare state, and social democratic political parties, while in the industrial sphere they consisted of trade unions and systems of collective bargaining. The central preoccupation was the problem of order, of finding means to integrate workers into functioning capitalist economies: in Commons' terms to 'save capitalism by making it good'. Contemporary pluralist writing continues to be preoccupied with the problem of order. The problems of order that concern contemporary pluralists, however, tend to be of a different kind to those that exercised their classic predecessors. They are concerned with disorderly markets rather than disorderly workers and propose regulatory solutions to perceived market failures. The latter include rising income inequality, low pay, ballooning executive pay, the growth of precarious work, failings of training and skill formation, and the entrenchment of a low-cost, low productivity dynamic, particularly in Anglophone economies. The purpose of this presentation is to trace and analyse this transition within the IR pluralist tradition. To this end it identifies key developments in the research agenda, modes of explanation and standards of evaluation that contemporary pluralist writers apply to the world of work. The transition itself is presented as an adjustment to an era of neo-liberal hegemony.