Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management
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Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management

Edited by Chris Brewster and Wolfgang Mayrhofer

This unique and path-breaking Handbook explores the issue of comparative Human Resource Management (HRM) and challenges the notion that there can be a ‘one best way’ to manage HRM.
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Chapter 2: Institutional Approaches to Comparative HRM

Geoffrey Wood, Alexandros Psychogios, Leslie T. Szamosi and David G. Collings


Geoffrey Wood, Alexandros Psychogios, Leslie T. Szamosi and David G. Collings This chapter introduces the principal traditions of socio-economic thinking on institutions, and the relationship between institutions and the utilisation, role and impact of people within the firm. The finance literature – and more broadly speaking, economic institutionalism – is dominated by rational–hierarchical approaches that see institutions primarily as providers of incentives or disincentives to rational actors (North, 1990; Powell & Di Maggio, 1991; Shleifer & Vishny, 1997). An abiding concern of much of this literature relates to property rights, and the extent to which they are protected in different contexts: strong rights for owners are seen as a prerequisite of competitiveness (Djankov et al., 2003: 596). The heterodox socio-economic literature can be divided into three key traditions: the varieties of capitalism literature, business systems theory and regulationist thinking. An emerging fourth approach seeks to accord greater attention to the effects of social action. What the heterodox tradition has in common is that it makes no assumptions as to the relationship between strong property and weak employee rights, on the one hand, and economic efficiency on the other. Rather, it is held that, within specific regulatory contexts, complementarities may result in strong employee rights contributing not only to greater economic efficiency, but also broader stakeholder well-being. It is recognised that the use of the concept ‘HRM’ may not be fully appropriate in comparing and contrasting different strands of institutionalist thinking, as much of the latter literature concerns itself not only with the management...

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