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 4: Critical Approaches to Comparative HRM

Tuomo Peltonen and Eero Vaara


Tuomo Peltonen and Eero Vaara Comparative HRM occupies an important position in the scholarship of international human resource management (IHRM) (Brewster, 1999; Brewster & Hegewisch, 1994; Brewster et al., 2004; Clark & Pugh, 2000; Dickmann et al., 2008). This is because it adopts a ‘broader’ view of the human resource practices and strategies than the mainstream approaches in IHRM research (cf. Keating & Thompson, 2004). By ‘broader’ we mean that it takes seriously the recent calls for more societally embedded organisational research as evidenced by the widespread use of neo-institutional theory (Drori et al., 2006; Granovetter, 1985; Scott, 2001), national business systems approach (Morgan et al., 2001; Quack et al., 2000; Whitley, 2002; Whitley & Kristensen, 1996;) and cross-cultural perspectives in management studies in general (Hall & Soskice, 2001; Maurice & Sorge, 2000). Thus, comparative research is prone to look into the wider societal issues and problems in its description and explanation of organisational and working life phenomena. The comparative stance has demonstrated the limits of the HRM theories and models derived from the institutional realities of the North American context. The individualised approach to employment relations and people management has its roots in the US institutional environment where the unions are relatively weak and where there is a strong belief in the potency of the free markets in the organisation of labour relations. In contrast, the Continental European system has traditionally been organised along corporatist lines, with strong trade union membership and a tradition of collective bargaining. The European system, with its more regulative and...

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