Symbolising potential: ethnic origin and inclusion in British personnel departments.

Ross, Catharine Mary (2000) Symbolising potential: ethnic origin and inclusion in British personnel departments. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The relationship between ethnic origin and inclusion in British personnel departments has never been fully explored or explained. This thesis draws upon an exploratory questionnaire survey of personnel practitioners of ethnic minority origin, and case studies of personnel departments in five organisations in Britain, to identify how and why people are included in British personnel departments and the role of ethnic origin in determining that inclusion.

In order to do this the thesis draws upon a range of models of inequality, including both Marxist and Weberian. For various reasons, however - such as a failure to overcome the separation of action and structure, an inability to articulate change, and a failure to recognise that closure is an ongoing process - none of the existing models are found to be able to articulate or explain filly the processes and structures of inclusion identified by the research. The thesis therefore develops a new model, focusing upon the microlevel, which overcomes the limitations of those existing models.

The research reveals that inclusion is afforded to those who are able to symbolise to those with power over inclusion the type of potential which the latter parties desire them to possess. The ethnic categorisation individuals are accorded, it is shown, can function as one such symbol. However, where ethnic categorisation would not symbolise the potential desired, individuals may win inclusion by ensuring that they are categorised according to other criteria.

Differences in inclusion between different personnel departments are found to reflect the relative power of different parties in the organisations concerned to ensure that those included in personnel departments symbolise to them the type of potential which they desire of them. As a consequence, the relationship between ethnic minority categorisation and inclusion, and between other criteria and inclusion, can vary between different departments and different situations. The model thus permits explanation of who is included in a particular part of an organisation and how that inclusion has been achieved.

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