n South African Journal of Labour Relations - Theory in industrial relations : a regulationist approach

Volume 33, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0379-8410
  • E-ISSN: 2520-3223



It has become trite to lament the lack of theory in industrial relations. A theoretical framework informs the questions we pose, the structure of our analysis, the inferences we draw and the conclusions we reach. Orthodox approaches to industrial relations are predominantly pragmatic in orientation and tend to regard employment as a largely self-contained sphere of social activity. In reality, however, the expanded reproduction of the employment relationship is dependent on a whole ensemble of social structures and practices to mitigate the contradictions inherent in capitalist accumulation. Many of the deficiencies in orthodox industrial relations theories may be overcome by drawing on the insights of the régulation approach. Grounding an analysis of industrial relations in the régulation approach yields a more compelling conception of the relationship between human agency and social institutions, and provides a more coherent account of the interaction between the various scales of governance. The aim here is to operationalise the concept of a "mode of regulation" at lower levels of abstraction, in particular that of the workplace.

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