The Warwick Papers in Industrial Relations series publishes the work of members of the Industrial Relations Research Unit and people associated with it. The papers may be work of a topical interest or require presentation outside the normal conventions of a journal article. A formal editorial process ensures that standards of quality and objectivity are maintained.
There are perhaps two real or imagined, but no less fundamental, critiques of Industrial Relations as an academic going concern. One is that Industrial Relations is a largely atheoretical discipline. The second takes this further to say that it is no discipline at all, or rather the awkward and perhaps illegitimate offspring of labour economics and industrial sociology. In this paper Paul Edwards takes issue with both of these notions. Whilst acknowledging that its focus is often engaged with practical employment issues and concerns, he takes the example of labour productivity to demonstrate that Industrial Relations scholarship can make a strong theoretical contribution even when utilising this approach. He further argues that a more explicit acknowledgement of its institutionalist heritage, and a clearer recognition of the relevance of the critical realist approach, would help confirm Industrial Relations as a field of study in its own right. He constructively concludes with a research agenda to this end.