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Title: A 'slow' manifesto for comparative research on work and employment
Authors: Almond, Phil
Connolly, Heather
Issue Date: 2017
Citation: ALMOND, P. and CONNOLLY, H., 2017. A 'slow' manifesto for comparative research on work and employment. Presented at the International Labour Process Conference (ILPC), Sheffield, UK, 4th-6th April 2017.
Abstract: This paper addresses cross-national comparative research in employment relations and related fields. Its purpose is to argue the case for research which makes a long-term, in-depth engagement with the local and national social contexts under study, in order to gain deeper and more reliable insights into the nature of, and reasons for, cross-national similarities and differences. We call this form of engagement “slow comparativism”. We aim to establish a number of basic precepts of ‘slow comparativism’ as a practical methodological approach. In presenting these, we will raise a number of questions which we think are important to all attempts at in-depth comparison, and which, we argue, need to be considered at all stages of the research process (research design, execution, and the presentation of findings). These questions include: (i) challenges in accessing the local ‘common sense’ of actors, through research processes which should be seen as much more encompassing than what happens in formal research processes such as interviews; (ii) challenges, both literal and figurative, of acquiring local ‘languages’; (iii) challenges of avoiding ethnocentrism through creating and maintaining a critical distance from the assumptions of research subjects through part-alienation and ensuring reflexivity; (iv) challenges of comparability between fieldwork conducted in different countries, and the need to think of comparative research as constituting ‘federal’ projects, thinking of fieldwork in different countries as constituting linked, but to some extent separate projects. Our analysis is developed through an examination of comparative literature in industrial relations, as well as through reflection on the challenges the two authors have faced in executing in-depth comparative research on labour management, industrial relations, and trade union organisation. Our presentation of these challenges, and the difficulties that comparative scholars of work and employment face in resolving them, can, we hope, be used to provoke a discussion among those conducting comparative research on work and employment about how truth claims are generated in general. We also seek to provide a basis by which those conducting slower forms of comparativism, through what we term ‘implicit ethnographies’, can find better ways of developing and defending their modes of research within a broader academic political economy which is not always favourable to such approaches.
Description: This conference paper was presented at the International Labour Process Conference (ILPC), Sheffield, UK, 4th-6th April 2017.
Version: Accepted for publication
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/26141
Publisher Link: http://www.ilpc.org.uk/
Appears in Collections:Conference Papers and Presentations (Loughborough University London)

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