A number of authors, myself included, have suggested that human resource management (HRM) research – and certainly that published in ‘top’ journals – appears to be dominated by a particular approach which emphasizes positivist methodology, a managerialist frame of reference and reliance on theory drawn from social psychology. Nonetheless, academic HRM is a broad church, with scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds publishing quantitative and qualitative research informed by a range of theoretical traditions. This diversity may reflect the changing nature of universities, with many scholars who would previously have worked in discipline-based departments finding themselves in business schools as the former shrink and the latter grow. Particularly in the UK, Australia and Europe, there is a strong tradition of critique from scholars who work in business schools but who question much of the theoretical and practical foundation of contemporary HRM.
This chapter reviews the development of labour process theory over time and evaluates its contribution to our understanding of the management of labour. It then provides a brief overview of the treatment of power and politics in mainstream scholarship on management and organisations. Discussion then turns to the employment relationship and how mainstream scholarship has dealt with the management of labour. After that, the remainder of the chapter deals with labour process theory. In the final part of the chapter, the legacy of labour process theory and its possible future are considered.