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An historical analysis of HRD knowledge: A critical review of “The foreman: master and victim of doubletalk”

Julia Storberg‐Walker (Department of Adult and Higher Education, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA)
Laura L. Bierema (Department of Lifelong Education, Administration and Policy, Programs in Adult Education and Human Resource and Organization Development, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Article publication date: 25 July 2008




The purpose of this article is to analyze the historical development of HRD knowledge. The analysis aims to use the qualitative research technique of text deconstruction on an important management text from the human relations phase of organization theory. Deconstruction is not a common method to HRD. In this paper, HRD scholars interested in how HRD knowledge and theories are created are given this tool to expose implicit assumptions.


The article uses text deconstruction, based on Bradshaw.


The deconstruction identified several beliefs that suggest that Roethlisberger was operating from a masculine epistemological perspective. Two clusters of findings emerged: one cluster revolved around the role of the researcher, and the other cluster revolved around the role of gender.

Research limitations/implications

Postpositivist perspectives on knowledge generation and theory building in HRD are limited. Post‐structural analyses need to be considered.

Practical implications

The article exposes how a gendered history influenced HRD scholarship and practice, and provides suggestions for future scholarship and practice.


Legitimizes text deconstruction as an integral research tool for HRD.



Storberg‐Walker, J. and Bierema, L.L. (2008), "An historical analysis of HRD knowledge: A critical review of “The foreman: master and victim of doubletalk”", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 32 No. 6, pp. 433-451.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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