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A problem of embeddedness? A micro-theoretical model of trade union action and interaction in Europe

Brandl, B.; Lehr, A.

A problem of embeddedness? A micro-theoretical model of trade union action and interaction in Europe Thumbnail


A. Lehr


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to propose a general micro-theoretical framework that helps to understand the embeddedness of trade unions within the European system of industrial relations, and the consequences of this embeddedness for industrial relations outcomes. First, starting from the paradoxical observation of a trend towards homogeneity within a complex, multi-layered European industrial relations system consisting of heterogeneous and autonomous agents, the paper aims to explicate the mechanisms which produce these similarities. Second, the paper seeks to analyse potential mechanisms for trans-national trade union cooperation and third, it concludes by outlining its applicability as the basis for methodological approaches which enable realistic and policy relevant analyses. Design/methodology/approach: This paper is conceptual and focuses on the development of a general micro-theoretical framework which captures European industrial relations actors’ behaviour and outcomes. It integrates theoretical and empirical accounts from differing social science disciplines and from various methodological starting points on trade union action and interaction into one general micro-theoretical framework. Findings: Starting from a typology of trade union goals, we show how various social mechanisms lead to interdependencies between trade unions and review empirical evidence for their consequences. We then identify a set of motives for transnational cooperation that would allow outcomes that are in line with trade union objectives. Originality/value: Against the background that previous studies on trade union action and cross-national interaction have paid less attention to the puzzling stylized fact that industrial relations outcomes are mimicked by heterogeneous and autonomous agents actors in different countries, we address this research gap by developing a novel general micro-theoretical framework for the analysis of trans-national trade union action and interaction in order to better understand the underlying causal mechanisms for the common behaviour and outcomes of autonomous actors.


Brandl, B., & Lehr, A. (2018). A problem of embeddedness? A micro-theoretical model of trade union action and interaction in Europe. Employee Relations, 40(3), 500-514.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 15, 2017
Online Publication Date Feb 16, 2018
Publication Date Feb 16, 2018
Deposit Date Jan 2, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jan 3, 2018
Journal Employee Relations
Print ISSN 0142-5455
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 3
Pages 500-514
Public URL


Accepted Journal Article (471 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This article is © Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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