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date: 01 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Transformations in collective bargaining systems, the decline of trade unionism, and global economic instability have challenged theories of employment relations predicated upon institutionalized interactions involving states and representatives of employers and employees. This chapter provides an overview of classical debates in industrial relations, emphasizing the early centrality of order and stability in competing pluralist paradigms. It then analyses the emergence of radical approaches explaining changes in employment relations as a result of social and labour conflicts and critical ruptures in Fordist production regimes. It finally discusses theories of change that, since the early 1980s, have emphasized, in opposition to epoch-defining categories like ‘post-Fordism’, recurring patterns or long waves within capitalism. The chapter’s conclusion questions the potentials and limitations of long wave theories in light of recent sociological debates on precarious employment and shifting labour politics and identities.

Keywords: conflict, order, change, pluralism, Fordism, post-Fordism, regulation theory, long waves, varieties of capitalism, neo-liberalism

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