1st Edition

Trade Unions and the British Industrial Relations Crisis An Intellectual Biography of Hugh Clegg

By Peter Ackers Copyright 2024
    254 Pages
    by Routledge

    Hugh Clegg was a founding figure of post-war British Industrial Relations, the forerunner of Employment Relations and Human Resource Management, as taught in most Business Schools today. He defined ‘industrial democracy’ as collective bargaining with trade unions, laid the foundations for the pluralist approach to Industrial Relations, was a key figure in the post-war social sciences and a major public policy player. More widely, he was an important figure in the Cold War social democratic academic left, who broke with his earlier Communism to champion free trade unions in a liberal democratic society. He also produced the major Oxford University Press trade union history. This book aims to understand the politics and industrial relations of the post-war period in Britain (in which trade unions were central) through the life of a key public intellectual. It will help readers understand the political and social science roots of contemporary Employment Relations and Human Resource Management through a deep historical study of Clegg’s life and times, in the context of his post-war social democratic generation. It illustrates how the failures of post-war industrial relations led to Thatcherism. Current Employment Relations academics and public policy can learn much from this history, making it of value to researchers, students, and academics in the fields of Human Resource Management and business and management history.

    1 Introduction: Why does Hugh Clegg still matter?

    Part One: Intellectual and Political Formation

    2 A Methodist Family (1920-32)

    3 A Communist in a Methodist School (1932-39)

    4 Mass Observation then Oxford (1939-41)

    5 War and Marriage (1941-45)

    Part Two: An Academic and Public Life

    6 Losing Faith: Magdalen College (1945-47)

    7 Industrial Democracy: Nuffield College (1947-54)

    8 The ‘Oxford School’ of Industrial Relations (1954-64)

    9 Reforming British Industrial Relations: The Donovan Commission (1964-68)

    10 The ‘Warwick School’ of Industrial Relations (1968-79)

    11 The Thatcher Turning Point? From Industrial Democracy to Trade Union History (1979-95)

    12 Personal Epilogue: The legacy of Hugh Clegg


    Peter Ackers is an Emeritus Professor in the History of Industrial Relations at Loughborough University, UK.

    “Peter Ackers' biography of Hugh Clegg is an excellent account of how one significant intellectual moved from communism to social democracy. Clegg then became a key player in building the post-1945 system of industrial relations and fighting a rearguard action against its demolition by Margaret Thatcher. So, although he is currently much less well known, this biography made me think that Clegg should be considered alongside Keynes as a major intellectual influence on public life in the period.” Dr. Alastar J Reid, Cambridge University

    "Hugh Clegg was the pre-eminent industrial relations scholar in the post-war era. His analysis of the system of industrial relations was path breaking, focussing on voluntarism and pluralism and influenced management pratice and government policy. Clegg was a skilled arbitrator, called in to resolve national disputes.  Peter Ackers's comprehensive study helps us understand Clegg's motives, and beliefs in collectivism, and the challenge of HRM." Professor John Purcell