Path Dependency and Comparative Industrial Relations: The Case of Conflict Resolution Systems in Ireland and Sweden



This article uses the theory of path dependency to explain the evolution of employment conflict resolution systems in Ireland and Sweden. It argues that the traditional ‘voluntarist’ conflict management path followed in Ireland has fragmented as a result of a series of internal developments that have reduced trade union density, increased the importance of employment law in the settlement of workplace disputes and established social partnership as the main wage-setting mechanism. By contrast, the Swedish system has experienced reform within the boundaries of the established conflict management path, which is largely attributable to the still powerful role played by trade unions within the country. Thus, while the operating rules of the system have changed, its core underlying principles — collectivism and self-regulation — remain intact.