industrial conflictCONFLICTs, both overt and covert, which arise from the employment relationship and which are manifest in many different forms, from STRIKES and lockouts to time-wasting. The study of industrial conflict has involved:
- the classification of its different forms, e.g. visible and organized, such as strikes, or more hidden and informal, such as ‘working to rule’;
- study of the sources and consequences of these;
- consideration of the social processes by which activities actually become defined or labelled as ‘conflict’ (including media presentations of these – e.g. see GLASGOW MEDIA GROUP).
Sociology is one of several disciplines concerned with the sources, forms and consequences of both-conflict and cooperation in work organizations. As a discipline, it has in particular offered a perspective which locates the study of industrial conflict within a broad understanding of the nature of industrial societies. In this respect, the attempts of MARX, WEBER and DURKHEIM have been particularly influential and still inform discussion of industrial conflict. For example, by focusing on the way in which both formally FREE WAGE LABOUR and the espoused democratic values of capitalist societies are contradicted by the usually hierarchical nature of relations at work, sociologists have questioned those explanations of industrial conflict which either tend to offer crude psychological explanations or to regard it as simply ‘irrational’. In all, four schools of thought can be identified in the study of industrial conflict (see also INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS):
- ‘unitarians’, who view conflict largely as an irrational aberration;
- ‘pluralists’, who regard organizations as inherently conflictual, but the conflicting interests within these as amenable to, and benefitting from, mutual accommodation;
- ‘radical pluralists’, who explain the persistence of conflicts as arising from fundamental inequalities of power and advantage;
- Marxists, who ground their analysis in assumptions deriving from Marxian conceptions of EXPLOITATION and conflict. see also CONFLICT THEORY.