Beyond Literal Translation: The Role of Culture in Understanding European Industrial Relations

Jean-Michel Servais


Globalisation does not outshine national features. Through the examination of distinct solutions adopted in the regulation of management-trade union relations, conclusions should be drawn on the pitfalls of a purely word-for-word translation and on the dangers of analysing other countries’ legal system without taking intellectual distance from his/her own. From the start, translation was used as the obvious way to compare national legal concepts, institutions, or systems. While research has always acknowledged the complex nature of the translation work, the acceleration of globalisation makes it more urgent to examine further the underlying reasons for these problems. This study draws upon cultural differences reflected in the law to analyse the difficulties to reach a more worldwide vision of the distinct national regulations and, consequently, of the transnational industrial relations resulting from an economic reality that has virtually ignored borders. It identifies the main differences between the approaches to labour-management relations in selected countries or groups of countries as they appeared in their legal systems. To carry out this examination, ILO conventions and recommendations are occasionally used as a reference.