Industrial Relations Systems, Management, and Economic Competitiveness
As noted in Chapter 3, the internationalization of the American economy has focused attention on the competitiveness of American industry. A major objective of competitiveness should be to maintain or improve incomes, profitability, and national power. Competitiveness, in turn, depends heavily on quality, productivity, efficiency, and flexibility -- all the outcomes of management and industrial relations systems. This chapter explores these relationships and demonstrates how the growing requirements of international competitiveness have changed traditional management and industrial relations systems in the United States and other industrial market economy countries (IMECs).
Industrial relations systems are components or subsets of social systems and serve the same conceptual purpose as economic systems. Industrial relations systems therefore play very important roles in overall economic performance. Indeed, industrial relations systems influence such important matters as productivity, international competitiveness, inflation, employment, and unemployment, and therefore political and economic stability in a country.
John T. Dunlop has developed a general conceptual framework of industrial relations systems, which he defines as the complexes of interrelationships among managers, workers, and governmental agencies. Dunlop's analysis focuses primarily on the rules governing the industrial relations systems. According to him, the central task of a theory of industrial relations is "to explain why particular rules are established in particular industrial relations systems and how and why they change in response to changes affecting the system."1
In addition to its main actors (managers, workers, and specialized government agencies), an industrial relations system comprises "certain contexts, an ideology which binds the industrial relations system together, and a body of rules created to govern____________________