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The totalitarian dynamic behind HRM's democratic façade

journal contribution
posted on 2015-04-01, 00:00 authored by Keith Abbott
The terms 'authoritarian' and 'democratic' are political concepts often applied as a means of distinguishing human resource management (HRM) from older forms of labour management, the common assertion being that former authoritarian practices have become more democratic under HRM. This article challenges this view by arguing that the foundational principles and practices of HRM, when orientated by the expectations of a 'desired' organisational culture, cast it into a role that involves mobilising the collective psychology of organisational members to accept willingly the legitimacy of managerial authority and the virtues of firm loyalty. It is suggested that such a role has no parallel in orthodox democratic arrangements; that if political concepts are to be applied to the way labour is managed under HRM, a clearer affinity exists with the aims and practices of totalitarian regimes and their use of propaganda and other means to control civilian populations. Key points: This article challenges the assumption that HRM is cast in the spirit of democracy. HRM's foundational principles and functional practices are instead more closely aligned with totalitarian conceptions of social control. This is evidenced by HRM's role in mobilising the collective psychology of employees in accordance with a 'desired' workplace culture proscribed by organisational leaderships.



Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources






204 - 220





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article

Copyright notice

2015, Wiley