In this chapter we introduce the context in which our model of new developments in global HRM operates and note some of the main debates and questions in this field. The context of course is the increasingly international world economy and the thinking through which organizations attempt to understand their approaches to HRM. The debates and questions center around two features of discussions of international HRM (IHRM) which frequently irritate readers: one is the tendency to spend a substantial part of articles defining the term(s) involved in international HRM; and the other is the assumption that there is no need to define terms.
Discussions of international HRM involve a series of separate but closely connected subject areas. We noted in the last chapter that we need to build an understanding of three dynamics - the first of which was the range of factors that (currently) make HRM distinctive in countries around the world. This chapter builds that understanding by concentrating on the areas of contention in comparative HRM. HRM is almost certainly the one management practice that varies most distinctively between countries (Rosenzweig and Nohria, 1994). But to note this fact begs a series of important questions:
• Has there been an increase in globalization? And, if so, given the controversial nature of the term "globalization," how are we to understand it?
• How are we to understand the different approaches to studying IHRM?
• How are we to understand the differences that there are between the way HRM is managed in different countries?
• Is there evidence of convergence or divergence in the different trajectories of HRM developments in different countries? (In other words, are the differences in the way HRM is managed going to become less or remain a major feature of IHRM?)
These questions form the spine of this chapter. It examines a series of questions about the globalization of the world economy and the issues raised by the identification of differences in HRM in different countries. Some of the most important of these issues concern the different paradigms that are used to understand and research HRM; the different concepts that are used to explain the differences between countries; and