Publication Details

Kelly, DJ, The transmission of ideas in employment relations: Dunlop and Oxford in the development of Australian industrial relations thought, 1960-1985, Advances in Industrial Relations and Labor Relations Research, 13, 2004, 249-78. Copyright Elsevier 2004. Original publication available here.


The primary objective of this paper is to understand the extent to which Australian industrial relations academics took up the different heuristic frameworks from USA and UK from the 1960s to the 1980s. A second objective is to begin to understand why, and in what ways ideas are transmitted in academic disciplines drawing on a “market model” for ideas. It is shown that in the years between 1960s and 1980s a modified US (Dunlopian) model of interpreting industrial relations became more influential in Australia than that of UK scholarship, as exemplified by the British Oxford School. In part this reflects the breadth, flexibility and absence of an overt normative tenor in Dunlop's model which thus offered lower transaction costs for scholars in an emergent discipline seeking recognition and approval from academia, practitioners and policy-makers. Despite frequent and wide-ranging criticism of Dunlop's model, it proved a far more enduring transfer to Australian academic industrial relations than the British model, albeit in a distorted form. The market model for the diffusion of ideas illuminates the ways in which a variety of local contextual factors influenced the choices taken by Australian industrial relations academics