From Bread and Roses to #MeToo: Multiplicity, Distance, and the Changing Dynamics of Conflict in IR Theory

Christine A. Riordan, Alexander M. Kowalski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A central assumption in industrial relations theory is that conflict is rooted in an enduring difference between the interests of labor and management. In recent years, the reality of work has changed for many, and scholarship has called attention to overlooked dimensions of conflict that depart from this assumption. The authors account for these developments with the concepts of multiplicity and distance. Multiplicity means that a broad range of actors bring diverse goals, tied to identities and values in addition to interests, to the employment relationship. The competing and fluid motivations that stem from these goals alter how actors individually and collectively name conflict. Distance reflects a growing rift between those who control work and those who labor, rooted in prevailing organizational forms and practices and the transformation of institutions. Distance alters actors’ interdependence and their perceived and actual power in addressing conflict. From these observations, the authors derive propositions suggesting directions for research and theory regarding conflict and the institutions through which actors balance goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)580-606
Number of pages27
JournalILR Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021


  • conflict management
  • employment relations
  • employment relations regimes
  • heterogeneous labor
  • industrial relations theory
  • labor market institutions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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