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Situating human resource management in the political-economy: Multilevel theorising and opportunities for kaleidoscopic imagination

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Steve VincentORCiD, Professor Greg Bamber



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This editorial and special issue contributes to the development of perspectives on Human Resource Management (HRM) that are informed by political-economy standpoints. We highlight tensions within mainstream HRM theory and practitioner discourses that reflect and are best explained via political-economy based arguments in order to demonstrate the value of this approach. To advance this perspective, we develop a novel theoretical framework using various hierarchically articulated, fluid and overlapping conceptual lenses. Our model reveals theoretically possible influences of aspects of political-economy for HRM practices and outcomes, and vice versa. We argue that using multiple and overlapping theoretical lenses requires the researcher to have an open-minded, kaleidoscopic imagination. In overcoming the limitations of telescopic thinking which focuses attention ever more narrowly, the task of the researcher becomes meta-theoretical bricolage, using a range of theoretical lenses, heuristically and intuitively, to shed light on how parts of the political economy interact with specific HRM practices to affect emergent outcomes. Our approach is ontologically realist and critically pragmatic, or driven by a concern to understand the vagaries of an external and knowable political-economy, how this affects emerging HRM practices and outcomes, and vice versa. As we develop our approach and theoretical framing, we introduce the papers contained within this special issue. We conclude by highlighting the contribution of this editorial and the special issue as a whole, as well as indicating avenues for future research.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Vincent S, Bamber G, Delbridge R, Grady J, Grugulis I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Human Resource Management Journal

Year: 2020

Volume: 30

Issue: 4

Pages: 461-477

Print publication date: 06/11/2020

Online publication date: 06/11/2020

Acceptance date: 16/10/2020

Date deposited: 03/11/2020

ISSN (print): 0954-5395

ISSN (electronic): 1748-8583

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/1748-8583.12328


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Funder referenceFunder name
ESRC grant L000660/1