'A Clear and Honest Understanding': Alan Fox and the Origins and Implications of Radical Pluralism

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One of the most significant contributions to industrial relations theory over the last 40 years has been Alan Fox’s elaboration of ‘radical pluralism’ as an analytical frame of reference. Though still highly influential, it has recently been criticized for allegedly confusing sociological and historical methodological procedures, prioritizing conflict over cooperation at the workplace and lacking connection with policy-makers. This article, through close reference to Durkheim, demonstrates how and where radical pluralism differs from Marxist analysis, and why the distinction is so important in answering these criticisms. It concludes that radical pluralism, with its nuanced understanding of the complexities of social inequalities, has potentially a great deal to offer both analysts of contemporary industrial relations and policy-makers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-166
Number of pages38
JournalHistorical Studies in Industrial Relations
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • Alan Fox; human resource management; industrial relations theory; pluralism; radical pluralism; unitarism

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