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29 Soc. F. 263 (1950-1951)
The Concept of Conflict in Industrial Sociology

handle is hein.journals/josf29 and id is 279 raw text is: CONCEPT OF CONFLICT IN INDUSTRIAL SOCIOLOGY

Univesity of Nebraska

A GROWING preoccupation of many eminent
sociologists is known by the brand name
of human relations in industry. It has
played a major role in the development of in-
dustrial sociology.' Departments are adding hu-
man relations in industry subjects to their offer-
ings. Industrial relations centers claim it as an
integrating force in college curriculums. Large
corporations subsidize the research efforts of some
industrial sociologists and their chosen students.
The mainsprings of the human relations in
industry   brand   of industrial sociology   are
grounded in the basic assumptions of the studies
of   Harvard's    Mayo-Whitehead-Roethlisberger
group. Intertwined are the premises of a new
cultural anthropology which draws on many com-
parisons between status systems of preliterate
tribal community and factory social structure in
modem society.
A ringing minority of American social scientists
has failed to take vows of uncritical acceptance of
human relations in industry sociology.2 Perhaps
the most justifiably assailed characteristic of its
approach is a rather exclusive concern with in-
dustry's vertical social structure and goals of
social collaboration in preference to collective
behavior throughout labor-management relations.
These considerations are responsible for this
paper's concern with industrial sociology's treat-
ment of conflict in the labor-management relation-
' Since 1946, the American Sociological Society has
chosen to entitle one of its annual meeting sections
Industrial Sociology. An entire issue of The American
Journal of Sociology (January 1949, Volume LIV,
Number 4) was devoted to this subject. Numerous
articles and a few books have treated of the subject.
2 Cf. Herbert Blumer, Sociological Theory in In-
dustrial Relations, American Sociological Review, XII;
(June 1947); Wilbert E. Moore, Current Issues in
Industrial Sociology, American Sociological Review,
XII (December 1947); Harold L. Sheppard, Managerial
Sociology: A Critical Commentary on the Mayo In-
fluence in Industrial Sociology, University of Wiscon-
sin, 1948 (unpublished doctoral dissertation); Robert
S. Lynd, review of T. North Whitehead's Leadership
in a Free Society, in Political Science Quarterly (Decem-
ber 1937).

ship under the following headings: (1) the nature
of today's labor-management relationship; (2) rec-
ognition of conflict between worker and company
goals and between labor union and management;
(3) the disregard of conflict by a substantial
portion of industrial sociology which overlooks
problems external to factory social structure
capable of undermining worker collaboration; (4)
the nearsighted criticism which asserts Mayo is
wrong because Blank is right; and (5) the con-
tribution of conflict to realistic labor-management
The company as a form of economic institution
is in effect sheer means to ends realized through
but not within the association and it is not
the specific social needs of fellowship, of com-
munication which brings them [the companies]
into being.3 In few instances will the corporate
official, in pushing the company's role and prestige,
use words common to a negotiating union's vo-
cabulary such as battle and crusade and
struggle and fight.
The emergence of strong unionism introduced
conflict to the industrial scene once dominated by
a stronger capital. Authority has been conferred
on management over things, not people.4 Worker
consent has emerged, in the context of a changing
social and legal philosophy, as a basis for co-
operation which must be persuaded and won, not
ordered or assumed. To obtain this cooperation,
management is seen in a new light-not as a
top-heavy group giving orders but as a function
operating at all levels of the industrial hierarchy.
Management prerogatives no longer rest solely
with the executive group, but depend upon the
I Robert M. MacIver, Society: A Textbook of Sociol-
ogy (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1937), p. 303.
4 For a startling contrast of these two points of view,
see the majority and minority decisions of the United
States Supreme Court in which the constitutionality
of the National Labor Relations Act was upheld-
National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin
Steel Corporation, 301 U. S. 1 (1937).

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