Recent years have seen a proliferation of industrial relations courses yet the status of the subject is still far from clear. Concern has been expressed about its lack of theoretical development and that having eschewed theory for empiricism it appears to be helpless in the face of practical problems. The reformism of the `Oxford School' reached an impasse in the 1970s both practically and theoretically. In the face of this impasse the void was filled by a more radical approach based upon an alternative economic analysis. Whilst there appears to have been a temporary lull in the hostilities the pluralist and Marxist approaches still vie for supremacy. This paper attempts to examine the object of industrial relations by submitting it to a critique. I argue that it is trapped theoretically within the confines of empiricism. During the course of the critique I discover that industrial relations is not the study of industrial relations; it is the study of objectified ideologies or rules. Given a definition of law I suggest that the academic distinction between industrial relations and the sociology of law should be re-examined.
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|Published - May 1982