Theorising human resource management in Africa: Beyond cultural relativism.


Ifedapo Adeleye

This paper provides a critical review of the emerging literature on African management, which is dominated by cultural relativism. In particular, the weaknesses and limitations of the assumptions and arguments of this view are extensively examined. One of the key issues relate to the homogeneous conceptualization of “national” and African culture, which is inappropriate given the cultural diversities and complexities that characterize the continent. Second, the generalizations that often characterize the literature do not acknowledge the varieties of business types and organizations that exist, an apparent lack of attention to context and firm-specificity. Furthermore, cultural relativism often overestimates the stability and long-term resilience of cultural values. Due to these fundamental weaknesses of the culturalist conceptual approach, this paper argues that there is a need for richer and fuller theoretical approaches that emphasize the market and institutional embeddedness of organizations.

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