criterion for evaluating outcomes: Does a work structure increase or decrease the efficiencies and social benefits that flow from the allocation of scarce resources?
Sociologists and industrial relations researchers (as well as institutional economists) concern themselves primarily with the institutions in which work is embedded. These range from the structure of internal labor markets and human resource systems to the laws that govern the employment contract. Thus, like organizational theorists, sociologists and industrial relations researchers are more likely to study the context in which work occurs than its specific content. Sociologists have historically had more to say about occupations than any other discipline and have done the most research on how work and occupations contribute to social stratification. When sociologists speak of the occupational structure, they tend to refer to the division of labor in society; when industrial psychologists and industrial relations researchers speak of occupational structures, they frequently refer to internal labor markets or to the patterns that link jobs across organizations and thus create occupational, regional, or industry wage structures and labor markets.
The various disciplines differ in their approach to work in several other substantive ways as well. Industrial relations and sociology pay more attention to the historical context of work than any other discipline—with the exception, of course, of history itself. Thus, these disciplines have more to say about employment relations institutions and policies because they bring issues of interests, power, and social values directly into their models and analyses of work. Anthropologists and some sociologists tend to view skill and knowledge as properties of communities. Industrial and organizational psychologists, ergonomists, and economists treat skill and knowledge as properties of individuals. Because of its ties to engineering, ergonomics deals most directly with technology's influence on work, but its purview tends to be highly situation-specific. After ergonomics, sociology and anthropology have probably shown the most interest in technology as a material cause. Economists view work as rationally motivated, whereas sociologists and anthropologists are more likely to view work as a normative or cultural activity.
Given the committee's view that a multidisciplinary approach