Theorising critical HRD: a paradox of intricacy and discrepancy

Kiran Trehan (Department of Management Learning and Leadership, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, UK)
Clare Rigg (Institute of Technology, Tralee, Ireland)

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Publication date: 5 April 2011



This paper aims to advance theoretical understanding of the concept of “critical human resource development”.


This is a conceptual paper.


Foregrounding questions of power, emotions and political dynamics within the analysis of organisational learning and development activity, critical approaches in HRD pay particular attention to the importance of context, interests and patterns of inter‐relationships amongst organisation stakeholders. It is notable that much of the work in this area operates on a theoretical plane, and is often light on practical guidance or recognition of the distinctive contexts of HRD practice, compared to other areas of critical learning.

Research limitations/implications

Empirical investigations that have systematically applied critical approaches to HRD are in short supply, and their potential to enrich HRD practice has rarely been explored. This paper contributes to addressing these gaps.


Firstly, it elucidates the concept of critical HRD through illuminating the diversity of theoretical perspectives; secondly, it demonstrate some of the intricacies and discrepancies within current theorising on critical HRD; thirdly, it raises questions for the practical significance of tools and insights informed by critical HRD.



Trehan, K. and Rigg, C. (2011), "Theorising critical HRD: a paradox of intricacy and discrepancy", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 276-290.

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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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