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Big bangs and cold wars: The British industrial relations tradition after Donovan (1965-2015)

Roger Seifert (Business School, Wolverhampton University, Wolverhampton, United Kingdom)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 5 October 2015



The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief and partial overview of some of the issues and authors that have dominated British industrial relations research since 1965. It is cast in terms of that year being the astronomical Big Bang from which all else was created. It traces a spectacular growth in academic interest and departments throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and then comments on the petering out of the tradition and its very existence (Darlington, 2009; Smith, 2011).


There are no methods other than a biased look through the literature.


These show a liberal oppression of the Marxist interpretation of class struggle through trade unions, collective bargaining, strikes, and public policy. At first through the Cold War and later, less well because many Marxists survived and thrived in industrial relations departments until after 2000, through closing courses and choking off demand. This essay exposes the hypocrisy surrounding notions of academic freedom, and throws light on the determination of those in the labour movement and their academic allies to push forward wage controls and stunted bargaining regimes, alongside restrictions on strikes, in the name of moderation and the middle ground.


An attempt to correct the history as written by the pro tem victors.



Seifert, R. (2015), "Big bangs and cold wars: The British industrial relations tradition after Donovan (1965-2015) ", Employee Relations, Vol. 37 No. 6, pp. 746-760.



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