Elgar Introduction to Theories of Human Resources and Employment Relations
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Elgar Introduction to Theories of Human Resources and Employment Relations

Edited by Keith Townsend, Kenneth Cafferkey, Aoife M. McDermott and Tony Dundon

This Elgar Introduction provides an overview of some of the key theories that inform human resource management and employment relations as a field of study.
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Chapter 8: Systems theory: forgotten legacy and future prospects

Brian Harney


This chapter presents an overview of systems theory before tracing its historical antecedents and key domain assumptions. The chapter reviews some valuable applications of systems thinking in employment relations and HRM before evaluating limitations and future prospects. Overall, the chapter surfaces the long-standing tensions between the intuitive appeal of systems logic and difficulty surrounding its application. The chapter concludes that despite these challenges, the changing nature of work and fracturing of work boundaries provide a strong mandate for a systems theory renaissance in HRM and employment relations.

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