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Economics of Labor in Industrial Society.

Economics of Labor in Industrial Society.

Two approaches to labor theory Edited by Clark Kerr and Paul D. Staudohar. San Francisco, Ca, Jossey-Bass, Inc., Publishers, 1986. 420 pp. $29.95.

Where conflicting interpretations of facts must be examined, two types of reading collections are in use. First are collections of chapters authored by individual experts who summarize the views of others. Second are those which allow the roponents of contrasting views to speak for themselves by presenting material from original sources. Commentaries and analysis are often provided in both types.

The quality of each type can vary, of course, depending on the objectivity of the editorrs and the breadth of their experience and scholarship. The volumes reviewed here demonstrate that the editors and the breadth of their experience and scholarship. The volumes reviewed here demonstrate that the second type is preferable. Professors Clark Kerr and Paul D. Staudohar have extracted the essential meaning of complex concepts in a fashion permitting challenge and encouraging further study.

In these two volumes, readers may enjoy the product of two generations of expertise in labor economics and industrial relations. Both editors are undoubtedly acquainted with the entire scope of writings in, for example, the economic role in unions. Both it is this splendid collaboration which gurantees that the reader will benefit from interpretations as varied as those of Henry Simons or Richard B. Freeman and James L. Medoff.

Two other features of these volumes enhance their value as texts for classroom use: each chapter closes with questions for discussion and additional relevant readings for students wishing to explore the subject further.

The economics text begins with segments devoted to economic history and the evolution from serdom to the factory system. There is a discussion of the Wisconsin school's view of American exceptionalism as well as some of the revisionist interpretations of Ameriican labor history.

The authors discuss a series of economic issues which should be read by those interested in modern labor-management relations: the nature and role of the labor force and of management; productivity problems; the labor market; income, wages, and stafflation; the welfare state; and industrial policy.

Two final chapters serve as a more direct introduction to industrial relations: one on the economic role of unions and other on alternative research perspectives. It is here that Kerr urges labor economists to concentrate their research on observation and understanding, rather than on that which can be qualitified:

Much of the econometric work . . . has deteriorated into a study of trivia: into more and more analyses of smaller bits and pieces of data . . . little concern is paid to expanding the pools of information and little concern is expressed for the comparative intellectual value of the results. This can lead, if carried too far and too long, to creeping sterility.
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Author:Weisz, Morris
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1988
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