Issue For Farmers In Developing Countries Writing Sample


Agriculture is a very important sector in the whole world economy since it makes available, food to every living person. Considering trade and agriculture, the World Trade Organization is the main body that coordinates activities in these two areas, (WTO is an international trade organization consisting of 146 member countries – as of April 2003, according to Global Express [2004]). Amazing enough, the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture, otherwise known as (AoA) does not direct its concern to agriculture and food. In the recent Doha round of talks, trade and agricultural subsidies became controversial issues (Rena, 2009).

Food is a human right since it is a basic need for human beings to survive. Global food security results from each country’s ability to produce to ensure its people survive. Unfortunately, the world food supply is getting under the control of big multinational corporations at an increasing rate. These large businesses are constantly changing the trends in the world agricultural economy with the aid of “free trade” agreements to convert food into a profit-making good and not regarding it as a human right. The commercialization of agriculture has brought about many negative effects on food security, the farmers themselves, and even on the environment (James, 2007).

Hassett & Shapiro (2003) argue that the greatest factor that has prevented progress in Africa alongside droughts, poor management, wars, and diseases is the E.U’s “Common Agricultural policies” – CAP. They clarify this point by saying that the policy has brought about subsidies and tariffs that have greatly favored the European food output and depressed global food prices and at the same time cutting down African exports. Basing on the U.N estimates, the third world nations get a loss of $1.3 billion each coming day as a result of unfair trade rules (Anonymous, 2008, Christian Today Ministries)

The Controversial Issue: Agricultural Subsidies

Trade is an instrument that can be used to generate wealth and move out of poverty and its associated ills and yet the poorest people in the world, who consist of millions, are left behind. The gap between the poor and the rich is increasing with each coming day. On the other hand, world trade could be the best instrument to eradicate poverty and boost growth in the economies of the participating nations but this is not being realized. Interestingly, the obstacle isn’t that the international trade is against helping the poor realize their needs but the major obstacle is that the rules that control it are made in favor of those that are rich (Anonymous, n.d., Rigged Rules and Double Standards). Rich nations’ governments keep on stressing on their putting in more efforts in reducing poverty and yet in the actual sense, the rules governing the international trade and double standards prevent the poor nations from reaping the benefits from trade and this contributes highly to their remaining in poverty.

To illustrate this, the rich nations spend one billion on agricultural subsidies each coming day and this results in the production of a surplus. This surplus in turn is dumped in the poor countries thus spoiling the livelihood of the many small-scale farmers in those countries. On the other hand, when the poor nations take their commodities on the export market in the rich countries, they come across trade barriers. These barriers are four times higher than those the rich countries face. These barriers cost the developing countries $100 billion each year and this amount is two times the amount they get in aid. This is one of the issues that were hotly contested at the 2000 Doha talks.

In these talks, it was suggested that the removal of barriers and reduction of subsidies to the imports coming from the developing nations could give economic benefits equivalent to thrice the amount of aid that is presently being given by the northern countries to these nations. A report from the World Bank (given out a short time before the meeting held in Doha) also agreed to this noting that eliminating these farm subsidies together with reducing the high tariffs in agriculture and giving of duty could yield the poor countries $15000 within ten years (Mutume, 2001). In the Doha talks, French leaders, who were facing elections in the year 2002, defended subsidies for their farmers thus they tried to obstruct words in the statement committing members to do away with subsidies but France did not get support from other E U members (Miller & Newman, 2003). The U.S had an apprehension of the outcome of E.U subsidies on the U.S farmers and the developing countries. Eventually, France gave up after the U.S proposing that the countries will engage in talks concerning the issue of reducing subsidies as a way of just saving image (Mutume, 2001). France has been noted to be among the developed countries that made a trade for the developing nations more difficult especially in not supporting these countries to export the Genetically Modified agricultural products (Sawahel, 2003). More so, in these talks, some developing countries demanded that some more other reforms called the “development box” be incorporated in the Doha declaration to make amendments on the AoA but this demand did not go through. The reforms were directed towards allowing the developing countries to increase their import tariffs imposed on staple foods to achieve food security needs and support the poor people in rural areas. These countries intended to have the ability to subsidize directly the essential crops on which poor farmers depend mainly as the source of livelihood, the practice the agreement failed to support (Mutume, 2001). The agreement was seen to favor the developed countries at the expense of the developing ones. This lack of support of these reforms is also mentioned in the Report of Workshop II by Anonymous (2007), held in New Delhi in which it questioned if there was a possibility to put up an agricultural subsidy structure in the North that can care for small scale farmers in both the north and the south. It was felt that at hand, was a role for protective tariffs for agriculture in the South but the North was strongly against this.

This controversial issue is as well echoed in the Trade Justice Movement report (Anonymous (Not Dated) in which the U.S and E.U are blamed for the failure of talks about reducing subsidies. They are blamed for continually placing their needs above the needs of the developing countries especially regarding the agriculture sector. In the report, the third world countries have been congratulated for persistently fighting for the rights of their poor people. The Doha round that began in the year 2001 was supposed to be around that was meant to seeing markets that were fairer and favored poor nations but this was not realized. For instance, the U.S came up with a suggestion that its subsidies would be limited to $14.5 billion per year which were at $ 7.8 billion. This implies that the country was not going to bring down the trade destroying subsidies at all.

During the World Summit on Sustainable Development, there were presentations on the third world countries’ agriculture among them being the one from the Department for International Development in the U.K (DFID) that was covering on the role of Agriculture (Bundell, 2000). This report strongly supported small farmers and development of their agriculture. The base of the report was on the recognition that poor people are the majority and depend basically on agriculture for their survival. The report put forward an argument that the poor people should get support in terms of provision of efficient infrastructure, credit facilities among other forms of support in order for them to achieve an improvement in production so as to serve themselves, the local markets, and even the global markets. The report also criticized the harm the rich nation’s agricultural subsidies have done on the poor countries’ agriculture and their farmers in addition to trade barriers such as the persistent existence of tariffs that prevent developing nations from benefiting from international trade. The report recognizes that currently, there is unfair trade. However, the DFID report did not give any clear solution to the prevailing matter than giving an impression that there has to be waiting until the countries in the north come to decide to take away their subsidies and the trade barriers, a thing which Bundell (2000) suggests can not be realized very soon.


At the end of the Doha conference, it was still hard for countries to reach a consensus on the issue of agriculture. The EU had at last accepted to come up with measures to phase out all kinds of export subsidies. Exports from developed countries that are highly subsidized have always had a very negative effect on small-scale farmers and domestic prices. Castle (2003) also expands on the significance of removing subsidies on exports and reports that changing the common trend will prevent the production of excess food and do away with the system that distorts trade and brings harm on the third world countries. Since the developing countries have sought for a long time to have favorable access to the markets of developed nations, they are most likely to welcome the fresh permission for discussions on feasible improvements in the market access. This hope has come about after the Doha talks. These negotiations will take in to consideration development requirements like food security and development of rural areas (Anonymous, n.d., Final Doha Assessment). From the ongoing discussion, it is quite clear that the food crisis and lack of basic needs by people in the developing countries is as a result of unfair trade conditions and unreasonable plans that do not put food security in the first place. The policies that have exposed food security to uncontrolled market forces have to be reviewed. There should be improvement of the local markets and the greatest priority should be marketing food on the local and regional markets. More so, commercializing agriculture should be controlled by policies that give priority to the small scale farmers in terms of enabling them to make better decisions and improving their purchasing power. Intervention steps should be directed towards improving the access of poor farmers to better quality inputs, credit facilities & extension services, and even to better markets. The developed countries should support the poor countries to develop agricultural export. In addition, the developed countries should, in their trade agreements, provide political flexibility for the developing countries in order for them to make a substantial improvement on the domestic production of staple foods. In addition, in order to ensure fair trade and food security, rules governing trade should not interfere with the right of any government to ensure adequate food supply to its people. The third world countries that export large quantities of their staple foods to other poor countries should be requested to think about the impact of export limits on the food security of the poor countries that are importing. The least developed countries should be given special treatment by WTO to enable them limit the export of staple foods. And also, developing countries should not be forced to depend on unpredictable global markets for the staple food supply to them. This will in the long run put food available in such countries in much danger thus facilitating food insecurity (APRODEV, 2009). Each and every individual has a right to live in a decent way, have enough food for himself or herself. But this right is infringed especially at the WTO where those with much wealth are in favor of implementing policies that place profit at first position and basic needs for human living behind it. To put poverty to the end and have food security among other basic needs, trade justice is needed in place of free trade.


Anonymous (2007) Report of the Workshop II on “Impact of WTO Ruling on EU – US Trade dispute on GM crops”. New Delhi. Web.

Anonymous (2008) Christian Aid hopes modern-day slavery exhibition highlights unfair trade rules, Christian Today Ministries. Web.

Anonymous (Not Dated) Rigged Rules and Double Standards. 2009. Web. 

Anonymous (not Dated) Trade Justice Movement. 2009. Web. 

Anonymous, Not Dated, Doha Final Assessment. 2009. Web. 

APRODEV (2009) Food for the Hungry Position Paper on the Food Crisis, Web.

Bundell K (2002) Forgotten farmers at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), World council of Churches. Web.

Castle S (2003) EU Claims Historic Reform of European Agriculture, Independent. Web. 

Global express (2004) fair trade. Teachers’ notes edition No. 38

Hassett K A and Shapiro R (2003), How Europe Sows Misery in Africa, Washington Post, Web.

James D (2007), Food Security, Farming, and the WTO and CAFTA. Web. 

Miller, S, & Newman, M. (2003) Europe Is Making Progress On Reform of Farm Subsidies , Global policy Forum, Wall Street Journal. Web.

Mutume, G. (2001) Africa Recovery, what Doha means for Africa. Web. 

Rena, R. (2008) WTO and Agriculture Trade Liberalization – A Focus on China. Web. 

Sawahel, W. (2006) WTO says Europe’s GM ban broke trade rules. Web.

Branch Of Retail Co Company – Riverside


This case study will be based on a branch of Retail Co Company called riverside. The main issue being that of identifying the human resource policy, strategy and practices being employed at the branch level in particular, the River side branch. The case study will try to analyze whether the kind of human resource policies, strategies and practices are auguring well with the employees, it will also ascertain whether they practice consistency in their human resource polices, strategies and practices and what contradictions come into play as they carry out these strategies and policies. (Jentz 2001)

Company Description

Retail co. operates in the multiple store grocery retailing sector. Riverside is just one of its 700 branches spread all over the United Kingdom, which sell groceries in a supermarket set up. They have employees that total up to 450, its work force is divided into part timers and full timers where by the number of part timers exceed the number of full timers by 71%. While in gender most part timers are females. Riverside branch operates 100 hours a week, weekends, evening, and day time. Their top management consists of the general manager, four senior stores managers, customer services manager, personnel manager, two trading managers. (Sleezer and Catherine 2002)

Human Resource Management

Human resource management can be defined as an act of planning that helps in managing people with the goal of effective performance being realized in an organization. Through this careful planning the main intention is for the management to be able to exercise flexibility and a caring nature to its employees and in turn the employees should feel motivated hence being able to give the company their best in terms of out put, in productivity. Good human resource practices are vital in implementing set objectives in a company hence it results to high production levels. (Sleezer and Catherine 2002)


This can be defined as a plan put in place in order to achieve a certain goal. In relation to human resource, a strategy can be a plan of action made in relation to set objectives of a company. In order to achieve human resource management then a set of actions have to be initiated and implemented. (Jentz 2001)

Good HRM Practices in Departments

Good human resource management practices in departments basically rely on set strategic initiatives which should be integrated when managing staff members for peak performance. Hence the following practices should be observed, each department should have its own clear strategic direction this is by its vision, mission and values being loudly articulated, for each member in the department to be able to understand. A strategic linkage should be established this should take effect through human resource programmes and management planning. A manpower plan should be established and should be able to reflect the company’s short term and long term human resource needs. Managers should adopt an open forum which they will be able to liaise with their staff members hence the need to be caring and flexible to the needs of the staff members.

The above style of managing can be characterized by the following; the company adopts an open performance management system this will promote effective performance and will call for individual objectives to be able to collude with the departmental objectives, mentorship and training should be initialized by the company this can be done through seminars, symposium and retreats this will develop the staff on the job. Training the staff members on the set departmental objectives and results will enhance staffs ability to perform better as they are armed with knowledge on what are the aims of the organization. Staff should be empowered on service delivery which should be of high quality, this will be realized through training and developing a service culture among staff members, they should know that it’s their duty to serve customers to their satisfaction. This also can be fulfilled by the act of initiating work streamlining and business process re-engineering. When a company embarks on its human resource management initiatives there is need for it to create an avenue of self evaluation, so that it can asses its progress and know whether to change course in its strategies, practices and policies or continue with its current way of dealing with its manpower in relation to its set objectives.

This can be illustrated by taking a follow up of initiatives taken compared to the kind of indication that initiative takes on the organization. For instance for the issue of vision, mission and values of a company the company has to have indications on how its implementing these three objectives on its organization, does the three objectives have a sense of purpose in the department, are elements of service culture captured in the objectives, does the management allocate resources to departments as delegated in the objectives, are there open communication systems in place to promote the departments set objectives, does the management offer training in relation to promote the objectives. The management should also implement a measurement system to enable tracking of performance improvement in return the staff members should be able to demonstrate a clear understanding on the departmental objectives.

Another good indicator is by measuring the initiative of drawing a human resource plan which should have the following characteristics if should be rated good. First it should be drawn under the leadership of top management hence it will have owners to guide and implement, the top management has the responsibility of voicing the departmental strategy clearly. The top team should endorse debate and approve human resource problems; they should take time and table the initiatives of reviving its departmental objectives. Questioners developed on staff surveys should be implemented in order to voice the opinion of the staff members this should lead to the development of a an information system which will allow free flow of information that is networked, this will add in put made by the staff members in drawing of the human resource major plan hence they don’t become docile members in the whole human resource management issue. The human resource management should make the point of assigning implementations carried out to the right channels.

Another initiative implemented by the HRM is the area of man power planning. For a good management in this specialty the company is supposed to do the following:- they should carry out interviews to measure on staff aspirations in the same time offering career advice o staff members, making sure that their staff members are competent enough in their respective areas of duty, instilling training arenas at the work place to increase efficiency, they should design job grades in which staff will fall into in cadre depending on area of specialization, this should be made common knowledge to staff members. There should be clear defined routes on which members of staff can pursue in order to reach certain career destinations in the firm; this should be well defined in order to increase motivation among staff members who want to be promoted. The HRM should open communication lines by creating an office in the department this will improve communication lines in the organization. (Jentz 2001)

Another human resource management initiative is the performance management system for its good coordination the senior management team should allocate required resources to the departments in abundance; this will demonstrate their support and commitment in performance of a department. All appraisers employed should be well trained in order to be able to work fairly, practice openness, and apply objectivity in the appraisal process. The company should be able to gauge and improve its performance through implementing and spear heading training to its employees. On the other hand the staff members should be made to understand that performance in the company relies on them and is a joint responsibility between the appraise and the supervisor, also they should not performance management is an all year thing other than an end of year event. The system of performance management should be carried out to evaluate the developmental needs of staff members and how the information can be used to upgrade them in promotions at the work place. The company should take the initiative of reviewing its performance management system frequently. (Sleezer and Catherine 2002)

Training and developmental initiatives, this should be done in accordance to the set departmental strategic objectives, the company should diverse its training from oversee training to attachment, training and development initiatives should run hand in hand with performance management systems and manpower management hence the need of the company to be able to liaise with the three initiatives in synchrony. After training, there should be supporting evidence to show improvement in work quality and efficiency. If positive, the managers should be able to note by giving the employees positive feed back. All new staff should be provided with in-training at the departmental stage. (Jentz 2001)

Service quality enhancement should be instilled in the company this will only be seen if the following are taken to effect, productivity should be enhanced, staff should have a strong initiative to serve, they should learn how to focus on the customer and implementing service culture as outlined in the company’s procedure, policies and practices. For the above to take place then the human resource manager is supposed to implement a mode of measurement to track service delivery this can be inform of questioners’ posed to the customers. If all is well done, then customer satisfaction will be enhanced thus contributing to profits at the end of day and maintaining its clientele base. (Sleezer and Catherine 2002)

Contradiction and Consistency

Analysis of riverside branch HRM strategy, policies and practices will be discussed in relevance to good HRM practices in an organization as discussed above. What are they doing right according to set good human resource management practices and what are they doing wrong that is contradicting the policies through this, the major human resource problem at riverside will be uncovered. This will be analyzed using five major points which are; strategy, man power development, training development, performance management and service enhancement. (Jentz 2001)


Their main strategy at riverside branch is that of cost reduction and quality enhancement. To ensure that this strategy takes the right course the head office closely monitors the store level managers at all levels. This is done by setting budgets and adhering to set targets. By the fact that it has an existing strategy in place it can be rated as a consistency, but it poses a contradiction to good human resource management practices because the store level managers human resource responsibilities are not reviewed, evaluated or scrutinized by any one directly. As long as they meet the set targets and budgets from the head office are maintained they are off the hook. Due to a tight budget which is endowed to produce quality service the store level managers won’t have a sense of commitment in relation to good human resource management practices, this is because they aren’t being offered managerial incentives by the top management. This also brings the question of lack of enough resources being offered to the branch hence low production levels this creates a problem in service delivery of the end product. Their whole strategy initiative is a scam in that they have it but don’t but supportive measures to implement it and see the success of it thus a contradiction.

Manpower Development

At riverside branch man power is not given full support by the head office top management. Section managers join the system as school leavers hence they wages are low as they are offered promotion from the most basic starts on their way up. From this it is deducted that the management at riverside is incompetent. In case of grievances the section store managers get involved in the initial stages and discipline process, the personnel manager often adopts advisory roles in the matter at latter stages of the process. This clearly indicates a contradiction to good human resource practices in that it doesn’t have an open flexible and caring system that opens up dialogue. The management should open its doors on its top level management by introducing an effective information system. Manpower development is non existent at riverside branch, this by the fact resources are limited in supply because of a lean budget, this will automatically dictate low production levels and service enhancement will be derailed.

Workers are overworked especially part timers, while full timers are given allowances on hours worked overtime, part timers don’t receive anything on top. This scenario makes part timers feel non committal, they only report to work, do their hours and leave for home there is no sense of belonging on their part, hence they cannot uphold the company’s set objectives and strategies. Although the branch needs more full timers recruitment is always put at a halt because of a restrictive budget that is in place this kills production, motivation, morale and misuses workers who are underpaid and overworked. The whole manpower development at riverside branch is a contradiction to good human resource practices.

Training Development

Riverside branch has an existing training manager whose main function is ensuring that corporate customers service training packages and central induction programmes are carried out effectively. This is a consistent according to good human resource practices but having an initiative that is never implemented turns it into a contradiction. This is in the sense that the responsibility of training and development of new staff on tasks is left to be carried out by the section managers who for one are incompetent. Thus productivity will be negated and service will not be up to date. Section managers are also delegated on carrying out interviews. While the top management takes a wide berth leaving a gap to a more problematic issue, staff recruited will not be qualified enough to increase productivity this brings about contradiction on good human resource management practices. Store level managers are left with the responsibility of managing human resource policies, which is supposed to be carried out by section managers thus assignment of duties at the store pose a contradiction to good management policies. This is to say the top management should be exclusively be involved in recruitment hence they will have a kind of standard on whom to employ and those not to be employed.

Performance Management Systems

At riverside branch the section managers are delegated to carry out annual performance appraisal among members of staff. This can be termed as a consistency but by the fact that the section managers are being overworked by playing so many roles they become ineffective. They tend to concentrate on meeting targets and operating a low cost budget in the aim of enhancing service something that cannot work, this tends to undermine and distort human resource initiatives, despite the introduction of performance appraisal system by the head office the section managers are too overworked to implement it hence workers are ignored and become a neglected lot. Due to the high influx of part timers the section managers argue that it’s a time consuming exercise and this time can be allocated to meet set targets. Thus in conclusion performance management system at riverside branch is like a taunting ghost that is there but cannot be seen nor felt (Desimone 2003)

Poor Manpower Management, Recruitment and Ratio balancing

The above can be termed as the main problem, afflicting the riverside branch when it comes to good human resource management of policies, strategies and practices. The whole work force at the riverside branch are afflicted this encompasses the section managers to full timers to part timers each of them experiences some sort of problem as they work at the branch. This tends to bring imbalances at the store that leads to reduced efficiency and production levels. (Desimone 2003)

Section Managers

They are overworked as they are left to delegate on duties, observe budgetary matters, and implement ways of meeting targets plus recruiting. By their level of education they tend to operate in mundane ways hence it’s not easy for them to follow and implement human resource initiatives set by the head office. Incompetence is characterized in the whole system at the riverside branch in that as they are given the mandate of recruiting they won’t recruit people who are more educated than them thus degrading the company’s standard on the level of education their employees should have. The human resource at retail co should make the initiative of employing managers at the section level who have a background on human resource issues meaning they should at least be colleges graduate. By this they will be able to manage and implement human resource initiatives as directed from the head office. The duties of section managers should be well spelt to prevent overworking which erodes motivation. The human resource at retail co should also instruct the personnel office to task up its role in listening grievances from workers and implementing an open information system at the branch. The personnel officer should also be delegated on the duty of recruiting, and employing staff by the standards set by the head office. (Malik 1997)

Lack of Specialization

For the company to realize its goals/ strategy it should be able to implement on labour specialization. This will increase production and efficiency, for instance in the case where by instead of the company employing appraisal officers they delegate this duty to section managers who are busy trying to meet targets on a restrictive budget. It becomes impossible for the performance system initiative to take root. Another example is where by the training manager training service staff only for them to be deployed later to other sections to help during rush hours. This kind of incidence deludes motivation at the work place making workers feel misused. Hence the human resource at retail co should initiate a specialization policy where every worker reports to work knowing what is expected of him and where he should report this will also save time and increase service delivery. (Desimone 2003)

Training Development and Service Delivery

The head office should implement ways on how to effectively offer in house training to their staff members. The human resource manager at the head office should instigate, and approve on the best ways on which to train their staff members. Especially because their business is service oriented then a service culture should be established. For instance training the staff on leadership styles while serving, will facilitate them with the capability of serving without assuming attitudes that would end up portraying the company in bad light. Out door training such as group mentoring should take effect well by the fact that it will promote team work. In the case of riverside branch the problem of disorientation comes into play by the fact that most employees come to riverside as workers they don’t consider it a family, this can be altered by organizing retreats enhancing working relation among staff members which in turn contributes to good service delivery. (Malik 1997)

Lack of a Trade Union and Ratio Balance

The man power at riverside branch consists mainly of part timers who account almost up to 71% which is a total of 320 out of 450 workers the rest are full timers. This poses a problem to the branch because they cannot register a trade union. The human resource at riverside should initiate a policy that will allow more part timers to be elevated to full timers hence they can exercise their freedom, open communication between them and the management in turn this will lead to sense of belonging to the member of staff to the company, hence increasing motivation leading to high production levels and enhanced service delivery at the end of the day. Full time workers should not be allowed to work overtime after which they are paid incentives this opportunity should be given to part timers because they work in periodic hours. When full timers are given this overtime work they don’t offer their best in terms of production this is because by this time they are already wasted and their minds are set on leaving for home. By turning the ratios of full timers and part timers it will be a plus to the company as mentioned on the trade union part. By turning the ratios the issue of overworking staff will not be there, the human resource should also ensure after implementing workers on full timer basis, they be facilitated to report to work in shifts, which can be divided into three equal periods per day, this will enhance service delivery. (Gupta 2003)


For a company to realize its full potential it has to care about its employees, because they are the main manpower behind the production sector that sets to deliver services to customers. The employer’s needs should be taken care of before the management starts dealing with disgruntled workers whose impact will show on levels of production and quality of service rendered. Thus: the need of a company to be able to establish, a good human resource management front, in terms of initiatives and implementations. As in the case of riverside the work force doesn’t have a say, by the fact that most of them are part timers hence they lack basic work force rights, their pay is low, and their management system is not well coordinated. In fact most workers don’t know who the top managers are thus the need of an organization to have a well thought out and established information system. (Malik 1997),

Inclusion of the whole working system as a whole should be encouraged. The human resource manager at Retail co it being the head office should diverse his office to the branches. This will increase efficiency this can be implemented through a hierarchical order. On the branch level there should be a human resource office that will deal with human resource issues at the branch level. This action will increase effectiveness when it comes to instilling of company’s strategies and policies. It will also improve relationship from the branch level to the top level management hence segregation and neglect will not be prone at the branch level. (Gupta 2003)

Retail co being a large company needs care full attention when it comes to its employees. Going by its strategy they really need to be keen in their issues, or else any stagnation caused due to demonstration or strikes can paralyze the whole system bringing numerous losses and creating bad impression which will be associated with the company.


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The German Ideology By Karl Marx


Karl Marx is one of the greatest contributors in the field of political ideology. His perspective of ideology was brought out clearly in the book The German Ideology in which he coauthored with Frederick Engels. Through this book, Marx gives insight in the issue of political ideology. Accordingly, this paper will identify the major arguments of Marx and Engels about ideology as expounded in this in this book.

Main body

What is an ideology? According to Marx and Engels, ideologies are “the production of ideas, of conceptions of consciousness” (p. 47). The ideologies are the main foundations upon which an individual bases his words, how he frames his imagination, and how he makes his conception of the world around him. Accordingly, these ideas are equally important in the individual’s decision concerning his political inclination, formation and adaptation of laws, their religious interpretation, the society’s moral perspectives and all the other metaphysics within the society. Basically, the ideological perspectives of any given society mark the basis and the superstructure upon which civilization is founded. To be precise, ideologies are the building stones that determine the society’s dominant ideas. Their ideologies act as the conventions which determine the society’s ideas.

Secondly, Karl Marx explains the issue of ideology in relation to leadership. As mentioned, ideologies form the main blocks upon which the society’s political perspectives are founded. Marx explains that the ruling ideas are however, not the ideas of the whole society. These are, in most cases, the ideas of the clique of the society that is involved in ruling. These are made up of the “dominant material relationships” (p. 64). According to Marx, this relationship determines the dominant ideas which in turn make this class to dominate over the others. Therefore, the main aim of ideology is to justify these natural forces that develop the given structure. Ideology tries to explain how the different societies within the different scales on the ladder are kept in their place and hence maintain the society’s structure. Ideology therefore highlights the violence and other tools of exploitation used by the ruling class to keep their subjects under control. Ideology aims at pointing out how lower classes like slaves and peasantry or any other community of disempowered citizens are put under control. Marx therefore engages in uncovering the contradictions in the dominant ideology through the use of the mode of production of a society.

One of the outstanding contributions of this book is to extrapolate on the idea that ideological mystifications are not the only basis through which the true conditions that promote human existence can be analyzed. Marx and Engels hence embark on using the mode of production of a society to determine their ideological perspective. On its part, the mode of production of the society is made up of several other factors like the means of production. This is made up of the material conditions that make up the society at the given point of time. Next, the relations of production works hand in hand with the means of production in determining the society’s mode of production. The relations of production are the ways in which the society has structured the relationship between the different members of the society. The relations of production are mostly defined by the labor relations – how the society has organized its division of labor.

Marx and Engels argue that the society’s mode of production determines the ideologies of a given society because of the following reasons. Firstly, the human life and existence is determined by the basic needs like food, shelter, clothing and other needs. Therefore, an individual will always try to get a reliable means of getting access to means of ensuring that these needs are satisfied. The availability and satisfaction of the materialistic part of life marks the essence of existence. Accordingly, this materialistic nature of humans directly determines the ideological inclination of the society. This supposition is evidenced in their argument that “life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life” (p. 47). This is a clear indication that the consciousness of an individual or a society is a creation of the factors that make up life. This is to say, the ideologies embraced by a given society are purely determined by life itself. Therefore, ideologies are determined by life not the other way round.

However, Marx argues that not all instances of ideological formulations are a result of the modes of production of the given society. In some rare cases, other factors could lead to the formulation of ideas that are contrary to the mode of production. This marks Marx’s theory of reflection. The book argues that other aspects of the society like literature and cultural activities could impact greatly on the ideologies of the society. Their influences are results of their autonomous coexistence within the society and hence the formulation of ideologies that are contrary with the expected ideologies as based on the mode of production.

Considering the mode of production as an influencing factor in the formulation of ideologies, Marx and Engels make a developmental analysis of the human civilization. Of particular interest within the modes of production is the division of labor. Through this, human civilization developed a society made up of tribal forms. This was the elementary form of social set up that revolved around kinship where men were expected to hunt while the women were expected to settle or domestic chores and requirements. With these specific expectations, the division of labor is evidenced and also the beginning of establishment of slave culture. Secondly, Marx and Engels point out the primitive communism as the second stage of the development of civilization. This form of societal set is evidenced after the tribal form develops into slavery that marks the provenance of classes within the society. This form of society is characterized by union of several tribes that form a coalition and develop state ownership through either “agreement or conquest” (p. 44). This marked the beginning of private property ownership. In fact, Marx and Engels argue that the contemporary private property ownership is a direct development from this form of government. It also marked the birth of proletariats.

Next in the process of development was the Feudal property. This form of societal set up was not very different from primitive communism. They also depended on the community as the unit of existence and ownership. However, in this form of property ownership, those who took control of property were not slaves as exhibited in the primitive community organization. In stead, the property in this system was managed by the peasantry. Trade guilds became the characteristics of the feudal structures. The authors point out that this society was characterized by limited labor division within the society. Cultivation and other forms of production were operated under restricted conditions. In comparison to capitalism, exploitation was less as the peasantry was expected to hand over a given portion of his products to the church and the aristocrats. This gave way to capitalism.

Population growth and also the increase of commerce exerted pressure on the aristocrats. On the other hand, this led to accumulation of capital by the feudal society. This pressure was the causing factor of the English Revolution in 1640 and later 1789s French revolution. These two revolutions had a great impact on the societal set up. They introduced capitalism and also changed the structure of the society where the new structure depended on profits and commodities. It was with this set up that the proletariats were subjected further to exploitation. This was facilitated by the belief that their labor could be quantified and hence literal buying and selling of labor on the market. This was a great opportunity for the small population of people who could raise adequate capital to make use and greatly exploit the larger population that was fooled to believe that they were benefiting from the set up through the meager payments extended to them by the ruling class. In addition, this social set up led to working class being sidelined as the means of production was in the hands of the few people who had the capital.

What are Marx’s arguments on capitalism? As mentioned earlier. The ability to quantify labor and the development of exchange value were the main facilitating forces that contributed to the development of capitalism. Marx argues that while value determination of objects was based on its use value and the labor that was required in the object’s production, capitalism posed a challenge as labor was an abstract entity. However, it was from this context of labor used in barter trade during quantification that capitalism developed their own methods of determining exchangeability of labor. The use value of it makes it possible for it to be exchanged for tangible products. This quality hence allows the labor to be exchanged for food, gold, money etc. By and by, this led to the formation of universal equivalence which enabled traders to employ a single universal measure to determine the value of items within different groups. This trend eventually led the capitalistic market’s emphasis on exchange value as opposed to the barter trade’s emphasis on use value. This led to the development of the use of money in the market.


In conclusion, labor has been the basis for the formation of ideologies within the contemporary society. This is attributed to the human being’s nature of wanting to fulfill his basic needs like food, shelter and clothing. This eventually out much emphasis on the production of commodities that would meet these basic needs. Accordingly, this demand led to value determination that developed since the times of barter trade to the current use of money. However, the perspectives of value changed with time. With the introduction of capitalism, the emphasis of use value was substituted by exchange value that was determined by money. This was emphasized through the issue of universal equivalence that allowed money to determine the value of many commodities.

Works Cited

Marx, Karl, Engels, Frederich and Arthur, Christopher. The German Ideology. London: International Publishers Company, 1970.

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