Investigating 'Voice' at Work
(2012) 33(3) Comparative Labor Law and Policy Journal 323-354
Posted: 11 Jun 2012
Date Written: June 1, 2012
‘Voice’ is a central organising concept in the discourse of labour law and Human Resource Management (HRM). There is, however, significant contestation within that discourse as to what is meant by voice: whose voice? For what purposes? What kind of process? And how does it relate to private property and managerial prerogative? The purpose of this article is to develop a basic grammar of voice so that it acquires more precision as an analytical concept. It begins by examining the historical context to the emergence of ‘voice’ in labour law and industrial relations theory in the post-war period. It then examines contemporary problems and ambiguities in the use of voice as an organising concept: the role of voice in deliberative models of reflexive governance, and the risks and opportunities of deliberative democracy in the sphere of work; the role of voice in HRM discourse, and the significance of Hirschman’s work on ‘loyalty, exit and voice’ in understanding its role; as well as challenges posed by the fragmentation of worker identity on the concept of voice.
Keywords: Labour law, human resource management, voice, industrial relations theory
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