HRM, POWER and possible spaces of becoming human

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HRM, POWER and possible spaces of becoming human

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Title: HRM, POWER and possible spaces of becoming human
Author: Bramming, Pia
Abstract: What has power to do with Human Resource Management (HRM)? Perusing HRMtextbooks one will find, that power as a concept, only seldom is approached explicitly. When the subject of power is addressed directly, it is primarily as a question of bargaining power between organisation and labour market institutions, the power of a leader or person in terms of the right to execute punishment and the duty to obedience or empowerment, as a countermove to the effects of bureaucratic workplace routines "... where initiative is stifled and workers become alienated"1. Indirectly one can identify power as interesting in the HRM-literature, as a question of influence or status of HRM as a function in business. Does or does HRM not play a central role in business? Is HR part of top management? That is questions concerned with how power is distributed as a commodity in reality. This paper is taking up the concept of power as a distributing force of reality, as opposed to a distribution of commodities in reality. In this way the position on power adopted is similar to the in Deleuzes words very simple definition of power by Foucault: "Power is a relation between forces, or rather every relation between forces is a ‘power relation." (Deleuze 1999: 70). This way of conceptualising power has as a consequence, that power always has several sides: Power is not essentially repressive Power is not unilateral, but requires both "masters and mastered" Power is practiced more than it is possessed. The first point is serving as both the way in and the way out of this paper. The paper will pry at the workings of power in order to unfold power as a positive as well as repressing force using HRM as the practice where power is working. "The exercise of power is a "conduct of conducts" and a management of possibilities" (Foucault, 2000: 341) Consequently, the way to study power is not to try to "find it", but to see, how it is practiced. (Deleuze, 1999: 71) Studying power in HRM therefore becomes a question on grasping the power relations and force fields emerging from HRM-practice. One could therefore ask the question: "What is HR about – and what is HR practice?" Barbara Townley (1994, 1998, 1999) has done this extensively and demonstrates how a foucauldian analysis focuses on practices, which structure social relations. (Townley, 1998: 194) Townley conceptualizes HRM as the medium through which the employment relationship may be organized or disciplined through technologies of the self.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10398/6677
Date: 2004-01-21

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