What Is Hrm? Work in the Century of the Self Essay

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What is HRM? A conceptual and historical outline §1. “What is HRM?” – what does this question indicate? In lectures 2 and 3, we would like to make as clear as possible why it is important to pay a specific kind of attention to Human Resource Management as a peculiar dimension of management. As we tried to argue from the very first, it is quite essential to grasp why HRM occupies a very particular place in the broader family of management disciplines (such as accounting, finance, economics, operations management, or marketing). Two central aspects can be considered as the distinctive aspects of HRM: (a) on the one hand, it deals with an ‘object’ that is independent of mechanically determined calculation and control – it deals with free human beings (we will think this through later on); (b) on the other hand, and as a consequence of this condition (free humans), HRM is always working with an indeterminate economic contract, i.e. a contract in which what is purchased with a salary or a wage is the involvement and willingness of a free human being to dispense her/himself in work effort in a process which an individual can always perceive every concrete work effort as resulting in only a smaller part of the value of the final product than that effort itself (smaller than that product realises in economic terms when it is sold for a profit). Put simply, at every turn, both parties to the labour contract can see the other as breaking it – asking too much, giving too little. Should work stop, at every such tense moment, and the contract be re-negotiated formally and re-started? Or is it that what we actually have outlined here is precisely the phenomenon HRM has to deal with? This can be reformulated as follows: HRM deals, very concretely, every day, in one way or another (sometimes with visible or invisible brutality), with the ‘maintenance’ of the always ambiguous

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