Labor Economics and Labor Relations

Labor Economics and Labor Relations

Labor Economics and Labor Relations

Labor Economics and Labor Relations

Excerpt

Labor economics and industrial relations are distinct but overlapping subjects. Labor economics is linked to the central core of economics by the theory of labor markets and wage determination; but unionism alters market structure and market results. Industrial relations is a multidisciplinary subject to which economics has made important contributions; but major contributions have come also from law, history, psychology, sociology, and industrial administration.

The effort to cover both subjects in a single text raises problems to which there is no agreed solution. While the notion of synthesizing them throughout the book is attractive in principle, it can lead to undesirable distortions in coverage. On one hand there is a temptation to focus the economic analysis on the unionized 25 percent of the labor force, and on the other a tendency to analyze industrial relations systems in overly economic terms.

This book follows the alternative course of treating the two subjects somewhat at arm's length. This raises the question of which should come first, and again there is no "correct" answer. Each sequence has advantages and disadvantages. I choose to place the economic analysis at the beginning of the book, partly because "this is where the action is" on the frontiers of research and policy discussion.

Any author must realize, however, that his own preferences on organization will not be universally shared. So I have tried to make each chapter of the book a self-contained teaching unit, which users can rearrange to suit their own preferences. The material on trade unionism and collective bargaining in Parts IV and V, for example, could be used effectively before Parts I-III by teachers who prefer an institutional introduction to the course.

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