Politics, History and International Relations

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Peter Ackers

Photo of  Peter Ackers

Visiting Professor

Peter Ackers is Visiting Professor in the History of Industrial Relations within the School of Business and Economics and the School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences. He is also Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, Griffith University, Brisbane; and a Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, Wolfson College.

Biography

Peter first joined the Business School in October 1991 and was Professor of Industrial Relations and Labour History at Loughborough University from 2005 to 2015. After a brief spell as a Research Professor of Employment Relations at De Montfort University, Leicester, he retired in June 2017. Earlier, he studied Politics and Philosophy (PPE, including Sociology) at Lincoln College, Oxford University, followed by an MA in Industrial Relations from Warwick University. His Wolverhampton PhD was a biographical study of the link between Protestant nonconformity and trade union leadership in the Lancashire coal industry.

Peter's intellectual interests centre on the sociological and historical aspects of the employment relationship and how this affects ordinary people and society at large. His work stresses the moderate, constructive character of organized labour, with themes of partnership and pluralism, and challenges Radical and Marxist theories of Industrial Relations.

Peter is on the Management Committee of History & Policy: Trade Union Forum; Joint Co-ordinator, Theory Study Group of the International Labour & Employment Relations Association (ILERA) and a Council member of the heritage body, The Chapels Society.

Peter's research addresses four main, inter-linked themes:-

(1)   The History of British academic Industrial Relations, since 1945, as this links social science developments to public policy practice and current academic theory. The centrepiece of this is a biographical study of Professor Hugh Clegg, a leading academic and policy-maker. See articles in the British Journal of Industrial Relations (2007, 2011), Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (2008, 2014) and Industrial Relations Journal (2016) etc. Peter is currently preparing an article on Clegg as a Trade Union Historian.

See also his talk on Hugh Clegg, Industrial Relations Pluralism and Employee Voice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZr3X1iCw7E

(2)   The wider History and Biography of the British working-classes. A recent co-edited collection, Alternatives to State Socialism in Britain: Other Worlds of Labour in the Twentieth Century (Palgrave 2016), challenges state-socialist reading of C20th British labour by exploring other traditions of organizing within civil society, including trade unions, co-operatives, religious nonconformity, women’s community action and so on.

Alternatives to State Socialism in Britain

Hear the Book Launch Talks: http://www.historyandpolicy.org/news/article/hp-historians-launch-new-book-on-british-labour-history

(3)   A Neo-Pluralist approach to the Sociology of employment relations, building on the ‘Oxford School’ Industrial Relations of Clegg, Fox and Flanders, elite political theory and the sociology of Durkheim and Weber, as an alternative to both Radical and Unitarist (managerial) approaches. This acknowledges the real tensions between employers and employees, but stresses the scope for constructive dialogue. ‘Rethinking the employment relationship: a neo-pluralist critique of British industrial relations orthodoxy’, International Journal of Human Resource Management (2014), further develops 'Reframing Employment Relations: The Case for Neo-Pluralism', Industrial Relations Journal (2002).

See the debate with Mark Stuart at 2016 BUIRA Doctoral Symposium: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wS3RsyJKcb0

(4)   Worker Participation and employer/ union Partnership. This has been the main focus of Peter’s collaborative contemporary research, including, New Developments in Employee Involvement (Marchington et al, UK Employment Department 1992) and Management Choice and Employee Voice (Marchington et al, Chartered Institute of Personnel Development 2001). Ackers and Payne “British Trade Unions and Social Partnership”, International Journal of Human Resource Management (1998) made an early contribution to the Partnership debate. The 2015 co-edited collection, Finding a Voice at Work? (Oxford University Press 2015) drew together this strand and included ‘Trade Unions as Professional Associations’, as the latest development of Peter’s argument.

Finding a Voice at Work

Peter has also published on coal-mining social history, including working-class religion and especially the Churches of Christ, as well as: employer paternalism; business ethics; gender and family-friendly policies; and Indian Industrial Relations.

Co-Edited Research Collections

There are four co-edited research collections:

  • Ackers, P., Smith, C., and Smith, P. (eds), The New Workplace and Trade Unionism, Routledge, London and New York, 1996.
  • Ackers, P. and Wilkinson, A.J. (eds), Understanding Work and Employment: Industrial Relations in Transition, Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Johnstone, S. and Ackers, P. (eds) Finding a Voice at Work? New Perspectives on Employment Relations, Oxford University Press, February 2015.
  • Ackers, P., and Reid, A.J. (eds) Alternatives to State-Socialism in Britain: Other Worlds of Labour in the Twentieth Century, Macmillan/Palgrave, December 2016.

 Other Journal articles and Book Chapters since 2014

  • Ackers, P., (ed) “The Oxford School of Industrial Relations”, Symposium of 5 short essays for Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, 37, 2016.
  • Ackers, P., ''Rethinking the employment relationship: a neo-pluralist critique of British industrial relations orthodoxy”, International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25 (18) 2014.
  • Ackers, P., ''Gramsci at the Miners’ strike: remembering the 1984-1985 Eurocommunist alternative industrial relations strategy, Labor History (USA), 55: 2, 2014.
  • Ackers, P., “Game Changer: Hugh Clegg’s Role in Drafting the 1968 Donovan Report and Redefining the British Industrial Relations Policy-Problem”, Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, 35, 2014.
  • Beszter, P., Ackers, P. and Hislop, D. “Understanding continuity in public sector HRM through neo-institutional theory: why national collective bargaining has survived in English local government”, Human Resource Management Journal, 25 (3), July, 2015.
  • Ackers, P., “Experiments in Industrial Democracy: an historical assessment of the Leicestershire boot and shoe co-operative o-partnership Movement”, Labor History (USA), October 2016.
  • Ackers, P., “Free collective bargaining and incomes policy: learning from Barbara Wootton and Hugh Clegg on post-war British Industrial Relations and wage inequality”, Industrial Relations Journal, November 2016.
  • Ackers, P., “Workers of the World? A British Pluralist critique of Marcel van der Linden’s Global Labour History”, International Review of Social History, 62: Part 2, August 2017 (with response from Marcel van der Linden.)
  • Ackers, P., Review Essay: “Waving not Drowning: British Industrial Relations in the Twenty-First Century” (Heery, Framing Work, 2016 and Budd, Employment with a human face, 2004), in British Journal of Industrial Relations, 55:3, September 2017..
  • Johnstone, S. and Ackers, P., “Partnership at work and mutual gains”, in D. Guest and D. Needle (eds), Wiley Encyclopaedia of Human Resource Management, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.
  • Ackers, P., “Bill McCarthy” and “Ben Roberts”, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2016.
  • Ackers, P., “How my grandad, the Churches of Christ and the Steam Engine Makers Society lifted our family into the professional classes: an essay in social science biography”, in Wilkinson, A. Hislop, D. & Coupland, C. (eds), Perspectives on Contemporary Professional Work: Challenges and Experiences, London: Elgar 2016.
  • Ackers, P., “Employment Ethics”, in Contemporary Human Resource Management: Text and Cases, Redman, T. and Wilkinson, A. (eds), FT Prentice Hall, 2016.
  • Ackers, P., “Doing historical research in human resource management: with some reflections on an academic career, in Townsend. K., Loudoun, R., and Lewin, D. (eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods on HRM: Innovative Techniques, London: Elgar, 2016.
  • Hoskin, J., Johnstone, S., and Ackers, P., “A Partial Partnership? The Contradictions of Co-operation at PowerCo”, in Wilkinson, A., and Johnstone, S. (eds) Developing Positive Employment Relations, London: Elgar, 2016.