Brooklyn College professor Mitchell Langbert published an investigation of the academic field of Industrial Relations (known as IR). Langbert’s article appeared in Econ Journal Watch, which I edit.

He used voter-registration data, political contributions data, and journal content analysis to show the left orientation of the field. IR scholars tend overwhelmingly to write good things about unions and about regulation, and overwhelmingly to be Democrats.

Does the field suffer from left-oriented groupthink?

Professor Bruce Kaufman of Georgia State University, a leader in the field, stepped up and wrote a thoughtful and cordial commentary on Langbert. Kaufman suggests that Langbert’s piece has problems, including “omitting right ideology, overstating IR’s left orientation relative to public opinion, using empirical measures of IR ideology that yield systematic left bias, and omitting right-side financial contributions.” Langbert provided an equally cordial reply.

The central organization of the IR field has posted at its own website a notice of the exchange. The organization is the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA), which publishes one of the four journals that Langbert investigates. Rather than dodging or suppressing conversation of the field’s ideological character, LERA is promoting the conversation among its own membership.

Hats off to Professor Kaufman and to LERA, for their generous engagement in an irenic conversation about ideology in academic life.