This seminar will cover the multi-disciplinary theoretical and empirical foundations of research on work, employment, labor markets, and industrial relations. We begin by tracing the historical development of theory and research in the field, paying special attention to how the normative premises, concepts, and methodological traditions of industrial relations compare to those of other disciplines that contribute to the study of work and employment relations. Then we will review a number of current theoretical and policy debates shaping the field. This will be followed by a series of modules introducing different disciplinary perspectives used to study work and employment issues today. Emphasis will be given to recent research from different industries that illustrate the mix of methods—field work, qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis, etc.—we encourage in this field of study.

The seminar will be taught at MIT and broadcast simultaneously to five participating university IR/HR programs: Cornell, Illinois, Rutgers, Minnesota, and Michigan State. We will draw on faculty from these programs to lead discussions on topics that reflect their particular expertise. Other sessions will be led by faculty in the MIT Institute for Work & Employment Research with expertise in these disciplines and topics. The course readings mix classical theoretical contributions with examples of current work within each discipline or perspective.

We encourage participation in the seminar by PhD students from a variety of different departments and disciplines at MIT and other universities who share an interest in work and employment relations.

MIT Participating Faculty

Thomas Kochan (Coordinator)
Diane Burton
Emilio Castilla
Richard Locke
Robert McKersie
Michael Piore

Tentative List of Topics

  • History of ideas in work and employment research
  • Contemporary debates in the field and in policy
  • Research traditions: institutional, multi-method, field based
  • Pluralist traditions in industrial relations
  • Marxist traditions in industrial relations
  • Neo-classical and institutional labor economics
  • Psychological and sociological foundations of work and human resource management
  • Comparative politics, globalization, and employment relations
  • Negotiations theory and research
  • Strategic human resource management