Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the human resource management (HRM) literature that builds up to our current concern with dualities, paradoxes, ambiguities, and balance issues; and to introduce the six papers in this special issue on managing the dualities in HRM. Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents a literature review taking a historical look at the development of theHRfield up to the present awareness of the complexity of the concept and practice of HRM. Findings – Almost 30 years on, is being found now increasing evidence of the dualities, paradoxes, and ambiguities entailed in HRM. Research limitations/implications – The literature review starts with the personnel management (PM)-HRM and industrial relations-HRM debates in the 1980s. Earlier work on traditional PM is not debated in this paper. Practical implications – After reading this general review practitioners might gain more insights in the potential tensions, ambiguities, and conflicts of interest that are characteristic for the field ofHRMin practice. Originality/value – First, this paper highlights the interest of the pluralist perspective in contrast to the dominating unitarist approaches in contemporary human resource studies. Second, this overview presents methodological challenges for example, with regard to multi-level and multi-actor research. Finally, the paper presents alternative theories for future research including new institutionalism, strategic balance theory, and health psychology theories
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