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Handbook of Research in International Human Resource Management

Edited by Günter K. Stahl and Ingmar Björkman

In providing an insightful overview of a wide range of global human resource issues facing MNCs, this pathbreaking Handbook highlights emergent topics and new research findings that could shape the field of future IHRM research. Theoretical discussion of the variables and processes that affect IHRM policies and practices is provided by renowned contributors with widely differing academic backgrounds, paradigmatic orientations, and theoretical and methodological approaches.
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Chapter 28: Critical Theoretical Perspectives on International Human Resource Management

Tuomo Peltonen


Tuomo Peltonen International human resource management (IHRM) is a branch of management studies that investigates the design and effects of organizational human resource practices in cross-cultural contexts. The field has evolved from its fragmented beginnings when, for example, Laurent (1986) was able to define international human resource management as being a discipline in its infancy. International personnel questions have since then become a new professional sub-specialism for the human resource people and the discovery of the international people management problems has helped the occupation to regain some authority in the political struggle over management expertise. However, despite the recent advances, international human resource management is rarely approached from a critical theoretical perspective, unlike many other sub-specialisms of management studies. There is a growing interest in critical approaches to management and organizations. Critical theories aim in general to uncover and change societal structures, ideologies and power relations that constitute and shape the organizational phenomena and workplace relations (for example, Alvesson & Willmot, 1996; Alvesson & Deetz, 2000) and their understanding of ‘management’ emphasizes control and governing dimensions of administrative activities (Willmot, 1997; Grey, 1999). ‘Human resource management’, in turn, is seen in critical theories as a way of ensuring employees’ commitment to the economic goals of the business enterprises instead of being treated as a mere functional response to individual, organizational and environmental needs (Townley, 1994; Legge, 1995). Additionally international management has also recently seen critical deconstructions of its uses of the concept of ‘culture’ in organizational discourses (for example, Prasad,...

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