Foucauldian Studies and Hrm

Topics: Human resource management, Michel Foucault, Discourse Pages: 9 (3573 words) Published: June 22, 2013
Foucauldian Studies and HRM

Chenchen Liu

When discussing and analyzing the nature of human resource management, Foucault, who not studying HRM, gives us much space to think about HRM in different ways. His theory on discourse, power and knowledge greatly influence the studies on HRM. This paper will follow Foucauldian studies on HRM, discussing three contributions Foucauldianism studies on HRM including HRM as discourse, HRM and power, and an essential part of HRM, employee selection. Based on Foucualdian studies, individuals can have new understandings on HRM, both in theoretical and practical field. Keywords: human resource management, discourse, power, employee selection.

When considering about human resource management (HRM) being understood as discourse, it is necessary to connect Foucault’ s theory on discourse with employee selection as a crucial part of human resource management. Though Foucault himself not a specialist in HRM, it appears that numerous organization studies scholars tend to drawn on Foucault’s ideas for the purpose of re-analyzing and re-understanding HRM. (Barrantt, 2001) The reason is that Foucault’s understanding of the relationship between discourse, truth and power implies how we should regard HRM from different perspective and put it into re-consideration. Generally, discourse could be understand as ‘ a set of concepts, expressions and statements that constitutes a way of talking or writing about an aspect of the world, thus framing the way people understand and act with regard to that aspect of the world’ (Watson, 2002: 118). And in Foucault’s view, discourse is a flexible term. In one of Foucault’ s book, The Archaeology of Knowledge, published in 1969, was an outstanding work of post-structuralism example. He believes that discourse is a statement unity. It talks about the statement (énoncé), which is a rule for the discursive expression to become meaningful. In Foucault’ s view, the statement has some special archeological meanings. The rules give the meaning of its existence. The meaning of the statement is dependent on the context where it presents. So discursive framing provide a language to representing a topic (Foucault, 1969). So discourse is more than language. It is the way we understand or interpret the world. Due to discourse is shaped or unshaped by society and culture, there are various discourses. The same as for HRM, it can be understand and interpreted from a different perspective. There is no doubt that Foucaultdian studies give new understanding of HRM. This paper will analyze and critically think of three contributions of reframing HRM Foucaultdian studies give. The first part will analyze human resource management as discourse. It focuses on how Foucualtdiansm understand HRM in different perspectives. The second part will discuss the relationship between HRM and power, which includes how Foucault decodes power, its relationship with knowledge or truth, and how HRM associated with power. The third part will focus on one important aspect of HRM, employee selection, to explore how employee selection can be understood and interpret in different ways. Finally, a conclusion will be drawn based on previous discussion.

HRM as Discourse
Generally, HRM are treated as a set of practices that regard human as resource to achieve companies’ targets or interests. It is a product of modern society. From managerial perspective, human resource management featured with ‘rationality, optimism and authoritarianism’ (Legge, 1995). Numerous scholars have explored human resource management from Foucualdian perspective. Generally, the discourse in HRM is associated with power. Poole (1999) argued that it is probably happened that the discursive analysis contains the description of the HRM discourse related occasion. It will provoke the issue between the subjects who have the right to speak and...

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