Reframing Fox: The continuing impact of ‘Beyond Contract’ and ‘Man Mismanagement’ 50 years on



Whilst Alan Fox is arguably best known for his analysis of frames of reference in industrial relations/human resource management, his influence on the development of employment relations is significantly broader. The year 2024 will mark 50 years since the publication of his two most influential texts – Beyond Contract: Work, Trust and Power Relations (Fox, 1974a), and Man Mismanagement* (Fox, 1974b). In Fox’s own words, Beyond Contract ‘examined different ways of organizing work and the consequences of the various choices’ (Fox, 2004: 262-263), whilst Man Mismanagement was ‘an analysis of the broad field of industrial relations, was written somewhat provocatively in the hope that it would serve as a lively instrument in teaching’ (Fox, 2004: 263). 

Fox’s analysis in these works has become central to how we now define and understand employment relations as a field of study (Blyton and Turnbull, 2004; Colling and Terry, 2010; Dundon et al, 2017). Yet his work has rarely been subject to thorough examination, beyond the frames of reference. Fox began the development and extension of his frames of reference from his earlier work (Fox, 1966) in a critique of pluralism (Fox, 1973) before he presented his more developed radical pluralist frame in Beyond Contract. His work on frames and patterns of management has been hugely influential in the subsequent broadening of the IR agenda in the UK to encompass the role of management. For example, the patterns of management presented in Beyond Contract influenced Purcell’s work on management styles (Purcell and Sisson, 1983; Purcell and Ahlstrand, 1994), and underpinned much of the early work on management strategy and British HRM (Bacon, 2008). 

Although Fox ultimately advocated a radical pluralist frame, in Beyond Contract he developed two models of relations at work, which distinguished between low and high institutionalised trust, an insight that anticipated later developments in HRM and employment relations. For example, Fox’s work on high trust influenced much of the later work on high commitment workplaces. Whilst some have contested Fox’s work on trust (Roche, 1991), others have more recently called for trust research to engage more clearly with Fox (Siebert et al 2015). From a theoretical angle, Fox explicitly acknowledged Durkheim’s influence on his later work (Fox, 1974a: 229–36), which underpinned and informed the development of his radical pluralism. His neo-Durkheimian approach to employment relations contrasts markedly with Marxist approaches and consequently bears different policy implications. 

Though Fox himself stated that he later became more interested in an ‘honest understanding’ of employment relations than in its ‘practical reform’ (Fox, 2004: 260), it is clear that his analysis does have policy implications – not least for our understanding of equal opportunities at work – and that these remain under-researched (Gold, 2017). We are therefore inviting papers that reflect on the sustained contribution of Fox’s ideas. His work has seldom been subject to a detailed analysis in the same way that academics have engaged with other members of the Oxford School (Ackers, 2011; 2014; Kelly, 2010). This Special Issue aims to address the gap.

*As noted on the back cover of the second edition of Man Mismanagement, the use of the word ‘man’ was ‘in its collective sense to mean both men and women’ (Fox, 1985: back cover). 

List of topic areas:

  • Trust dynamics at work 
  • Management patterns and styles 
  • Contemporary understandings on the frames of reference 
  • Control and consent in the contemporary workplace 
  • Collective bargaining in contemporary world of work 
  • The continued role of the managerial prerogative 
  • Contrasts between radical pluralist and Marxist approaches to employment relations 
  • Policy implications of radical pluralist approaches to employment relations 
  • Historical origins of radical pluralist approaches to employment relations

Submissions Information:

Abstract submissions are to be made via email to both Guest Editors (contact information below). Abstracts should be between 500-1000 words in length, submitted no later than 28th February 2023.

Full paper submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at:

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see: 

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Guest Editors:

Andy Hodder, University of Birmingham, UK:  [email protected]

Michael Gold, Royal Holloway University of London, UK: [email protected]

Key deadlines

Closing date for abstract submission via email: 28th of February 2023   
Email for submissions: [email protected] and [email protected]
Opening date: 1st of March 2023
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 31st of August 2023  


Ackers, P. (2011) ‘Finding the future in the past? The social philosophy of Oxford industrial relations pluralism’, in K. Townsend and A. Wilkinson (eds.) Research Handbook on the Future of Work and Employment Relations, Edward Elgar: Cheltenham, 45-66.
Ackers, P (2014) ‘Rethinking the employment relationship: A neo-pluralist critique of British industrial relations orthodoxy’, International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(18): 2608–2625.
Bacon, N. (2008) ‘Management strategy and industrial relations’, in P. Blyton, N. Bacon, J. Fiorito and E. Heery (eds). The SAGE Handbook of Research in Industrial Relations, London: Sage, 241-257.
Blyton, P. and Turnbull P. (2004) The Dynamics of Employee Relations, 2nd edition, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Colling, T., & Terry, M. (2010). Work, the employment relationship and the field of industrial relations. In T. Colling & M. Terry (Eds.), Industrial relations: Theory and practice (3rd ed.) (pp. 3–25). Wiley.
Dundon, T., Cullinane, N., & Wilkinson, A. (2017). A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about employment relations. Sage.
Fox, A. (1966) Industrial Sociology and Industrial Relations, Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations Research Paper 3, Her Majesty’s Stationery office: London.
Fox, A. (1973) ‘Industrial relations: a social critique of pluralist ideology’ in J. Child (ed.) Man and Organization, London: Allen and Unwin, 302-324. 
Fox, A. (1974a) Beyond contract: Work, Power and Trust Relations, Faber and Faber Limited: London. 
Fox, A. (1974b) Man Mismanagement, Hutchinson & Co.: London. 
Fox, A. (1985) Man Mismanagement, 2nd edition, Industrial Relations Research Unit: University of Warwick. 
Fox, A. (2004) A Very Late Development: An Autobiography, 2nd edition, BUIRA: University of Keele.
Gold, M. (2017) ‘“A Clear and Honest Understanding”: Alan Fox and the Origins and Implications of Radical Pluralism’, Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, 38(1):129-166.
Kelly, J. (2010) Ethical Socialism and the Trade Unions: Allan Flanders and British Industrial Relations Reform, London: Routledge.
Purcell, J. and Ahlstrand B. (1994) Human resource management in the multi-divisional company, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
Purcell, J. and Sisson, K. (1983) ‘Strategies and practice in the management of industrial relations’, in G. Bain (ed.) Industrial Relations in Britain, Oxford: Blackwell, 95-120. 
Roche, W. (1991) ‘Trust dynamics and organisational integration: The micro-sociology of Alan Fox’, British Journal of Sociology, 41(1):95–113.
Siebert, S., Martin, G., Bozic, B. and Docherty, I. (2015) ‘Looking “Beyond the Factory Gates”: Towards more Pluralist and Radical Approaches to Intraorganizational Trust Research’, Organization Studies, 36(8):1033-1062.