Co-operation in the employment relationship continues to be a widely lauded goal, but academics, practitioners and policy makers rarely define the concept or analyse systematically its variants. This is problematic because a lack of clarity is a significant barrier to academic discourse and practical implementation in many organizations and countries. This article therefore carefully develops a framework that results in six key perspectives on co-operation rooted in five assumptions. In addition to fostering a deeper understanding of co-operation, these six perspectives can be used to theorize alternative employment relations paradigms when co-operation rather than conflict is viewed as the central construct. Moreover, a dynamic analysis of these six perspectives adds new insights to understanding the challenges of achieving and sustaining truly co-operative regimes, while also highlighting the need to go beyond structures and practices by incorporating the role of ideas in analyses of the success or failure of co-operative efforts.