Ideology in HRM scholarship: interrogating the ideological performativity of ‘new unitarism’

Michelle Greenwood, Harry J. Van Buren III

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32 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we seek to uncover and analyse unitarist ideology within the field of HRM, with particular emphasis on the manner in which what we call ‘new unitarism’ is ideologically performative in HRM scholarship. Originally conceived of as a way of understanding employer ideology with regard to the employment relationship, unitarist frames of reference conceive a workplace that is characterised by shared interests and a single source of authority. This frame has continuously evolved and persistently formed thinking about HRM; however, this influence has been largely covert and unexamined. Using an epistemic analysis informed by theories of knowledge, we examine new unitarism against three types of validity claims—descriptive, normative, and instrumental—in order to understand how it has been ideologically constitutive of HRM scholarship. We consider the implications of this analysis for HRM research and practice and contend that an alternative frame, namely ‘new pluralism’, has potential to offer a more valid account of the employment relationship, to provide a framework for assessing how power affects the pursuit of employee interests, and to allow space for taking up deeply ethical questions related to employment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-678
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Epistemic analysis
  • Habermas
  • Ideology
  • Pluralism
  • Unitarism
  • Validity claims

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