This roundtable is a frank state-of-the-field discussion by leading scholars of industrial relations. Whereas the decline of organized labor has likely helped push labor history into new arenas of inquiry, the near-collapse of collective bargaining represents a more existential threat to the discipline of industrial relations. In the event, as four experts attest, the “mother field” or industrial relations – labor economics is now looking to its labor history offspring as one source of re-inspiration. Following Michael Hillard's introductory overview, Thomas A. Kochan, Rosemary Batt, and Richard McIntyre set the current crisis in the context of the dispersion of both the institutional economics of the long New Deal era as well as the class-collaborative “Japanese” or “Saturn Motors” models of workplace efficiency that (briefly) succeeded them. A more combative policy agenda together with a Marxist-inspired theoretical critique—both looking to connect with labor history scholarship—has most recently come to the fore.

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