The aim of this chapter is to consider the analytical purchase of the concept of ‘industrial relations’ (IR) and the explanatory power of its key expressions. The discussion commences with an outline of the employment relationship as a historically contingent exchange relation that is socially embedded and dependent on institutional mediation for its reproduction. A key aspect of the argument is the claim that the much vaunted ‘crisis of IR’ is merely a crisis of a particular conception of the employment relationship: one that is narrowly focused on mass production and revolves largely around the experiences of organized, full-time (typically male) workers. Shifting the focus of analysis to a more inclusive conception of IR as ‘labour regulation’ situates the employment relationship in its wider socio-economic and political context and challenges many of the assumptions in the human resource management (HRM) literature about strategic ‘integration’, employee ‘involvement’, ‘high commitment’ management and so on. Labour regulation is conceptualized as a conjuncturally specific phenomenon that coalesces under certain spatio-temporal conditions. Since it is inherently open-ended, contested and contradictory, the employment relationship is dependent on regulatory mechanisms capable of generating the social rules and conventions necessary for its cohesion and durability. In other words, labour regulation plays the role that it does because the employment relationship is structured in the way that it is. Durable regulation, in the form of an essentially stable employment relationship, is unattainable since industrial conflict can never be ‘resolved’ in any final or absolute sense. In practice, labour regulation is a dialectical and continuous process of challenge and response, cooperation and conflict, control and autonomy. HRM is simply one way of mediating these contradictions, not a means to elude or to eradicate them.