RECENSIONS / BOOK REVIEWS
employee involvement, deregulation and labour market flexibility are discussed.
One of the strengths of this book is that it provides an update of the state of industrial relations in a sample of developed market economies. Among notable general observations is that trade unions, caught in the vice of increasing global competitiveness, government belt-tightening and restrictive monetary policy, generally continue to experience hard times. Among national develop- ments that stand out is the deterioration of German institutions discussed elo- quently by Keller. His data suggest that although the much studied and heralded codetermination system is not about to sink, it has sprouted some serious leaks. Another major development is the contrary-to-general-trend revitalization of Swedish industrial relations as the Swedes continue to amaze the world with their ingenuity and creativity. Despite the withdrawal of the Swedish Employer’s Federation from established institutions of cooperative economic management, at the industry/sectoral level new cooperative institutions have been invented and appear to be functioning well. Also notable is the continuing inability of Japan to pull out of an economic slump that is now nearly a decade and a half old, amidst continuing debate about the influence of Japan’s unique industrial relations practices on that situation. In the United States, organized labour continues to grow weaker despite the high hopes for reinvigoration that were held by many when new and progressive leadership gained ascendancy in the 1990s.
With nearly 200 countries in the contemporary world and huge varia- tions among them, choosing countries to include in a book of this sort, with a view towards providing the reader with a good sense of the variation that exists, is an impossible task. One would think, however, that an important criterion for inclusion would be the degree of con- temporary interest in the industrial rela-
tions practices of particular countries. Among countries attracting considerable attention recently (more so than some of those included, it seems to me) are Ireland, the Netherlands, South Africa and China. Ireland and the Netherlands have aroused interest because of their economic success and the imputed connection of labour institutions and practices to that success. South Africa is of high interest because of the role of labour relations in its transition from apartheid to democracy and because of the strong role of labour in govern- ing the new nation. China is emerg- ing as an economic super power and thus understanding more about that country’s employment practices is of growing interest. From my perspective as a teacher of comparative industrial relations, inclusion of these countries (in lieu of some of those included, if necessary) would have made for a better book at this point in time.
As a text, this book comes up short in a few additional respects as well. First of all, no introductory course on com- parative IR would be complete without a section on international institutions such as global union and employer fed- erations and the tri-partite International Labour Organization. The authors do not completely ignore this requirement but their brief and incomplete discussion is, incomprehensively, tucked into the “conclusions” chapter.
Another drawback from a teaching perspective is the dearth of truly com- parative material. Many of the most interesting issues are transnational in character and many of the most impor- tant lessons are those to be drawn from systematic international comparison. For example, employment relations developments at the European Union level, rather than at the level of any particular country, have been of high interest for some time but one gets only a fragmented sense of those develop- ments from a reading of the country chapters in this book. Union density is