Tripartism in comparative and historical perspective

Croucher, Richard ORCID logoORCID: and Wood, Geoffrey (2015) Tripartism in comparative and historical perspective. Business History, 57 (3) . pp. 347-357. ISSN 0007-6791 [Article] (doi:10.1080/00076791.2014.983479)

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This special issue explores changes in the nature of tripartite arrangements between firms, governments and organized labour across the last century, focusing on their post-1945 heyday. Although tripartism has its origins at the turn of the Twentieth Century, the post-1945 long boom represented an historical high-water mark that may now be seen as quite distinct from our own long period of volatility and crisis. Historical concerns are frequently stimulated by those of the present and this is especially the case in contemporary history. Anglo-Saxon historians may feel that the age of tripartism is at an end, but the contributions within this issue show that although this may accurately reflect current perceptions, tripartism continues , albeit often in weak forms, in other national and transnational contexts; its history therefore retains contemporary resonance.
In our present age, it is commonly assumed that the relative power of employers has increased at the expense of government – the central co-ordinating actor in tripartism – and organized labour. Within the firm, not only workers, but also traditional managers have been displaced by assertive investors and allied to them, a new managerial class that has little emotional capital sunk in the firm other than as a vehicle for shareholder value maximization or release, and personal enrichment. From the business historian’s viewpoint, these assumptions raise a number of issues surrounding long term trends and diversity in the nature of the capitalist ecosystem within which tripartism is located. In this connection, there are four alternative points of view on broad approaches to labour management. The first, rooted in the then apparent solidity of the British postwar tripartite settlement, was that the incorporation of labour’s institutions was structurally essential to the state’s role in avoiding or genuinely resolving crises. The second sees tripartism as very much an historical exception, representing to a large extent a product of a very specific set of historic circumstances around the Great Depression and the post-World War Two long boom. The third, a variant of the second, would see historic compromises between state, the firm, and workers as a reflection of the thirty year period of relative global prosperity and growth which had deeper historic roots stretching back at least into the Nineteenth Century. The fourth highlights national diversity in global capitalism and views the labour management options adopted according not only to temporal trends but also to such dimensions as space, scale, and global centre-periphery relations. The latter view implies that elements of post-war compromises may persist, even if, within many of the advanced societies, they do so in dilute form.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Special Issue: Tripartism in Comparative and Historical Perspective
Keywords (uncontrolled): Tripartism; comparative; transnational history.
Research Areas: A. > Business School > International Management and Innovation > Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics group
Item ID: 16548
Notes on copyright: Final accepted version: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Business History on 17/03/2015, available online:"
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Depositing User: Bernadett Dunn
Date Deposited: 29 May 2015 13:43
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 22:54

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