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Ethics TheoryandBusiness Practice
11.1 Some Closing Thoughts – Part OneResponding to Perplexity andAmbivalence
aims
to introduce some possible reactions to philosophically based study of business ethicstoreflect on the perplexing nature of businessethicsto suggestthat, rather than inhibiting ethical evaluation, sensitivity to perplexity can actually enhance itsqualityto draw attention to the possibility of ethical ambivalence in relation to business practiceto suggest that we may not have to put up with the ethical downsides of business activity in order to reap the ethical upsides
some possiblereactions to philosophically basedbusiness-ethics study
perplexityambivalencepowerlessness
1. perplexity
an unavoidable feature of philosophically based ethicalenquiryethics doesnot lend itself to the delivery of preciseconclusionsbut lackof precision need not preclude ethical conviction
the precarious nature of ethical evaluation
there are no unquestionable formulas that we can apply to deliver irrefutable verdicts of right andwrongbut this does not mean we cannot hold firm ethical viewsnor does it mean that we cannot have good grounds for holding those views
the merits of well-informedchoice
which drawson comprehensive consideration of anissuewhich is undertaken by somebody who is well versed in thesubjectand whichembraces a range of perspectives
perplexity: a corrective to ethical dogmatism
dogmatismatendency to assume that ethical principles or opinions are incontrovertiblytruea disinclination to consider the possibility ofalternativesunlikelyto lead to well-informed ethicalconvictions
be alert to the possibility that our ethical views can be improved throughengagementwith new perspectives
the danger of ethical dogmatism in business communities
We’ve got fundamentalist MuslimsWe’ve got fundamentalist JewsWe’ve got fundamentalist ChristiansThey’ll blow the whole thing up for youBut as I travel around this big old worldThere’s one thing I fear mostIt’s a white man in a golf shirtWith a cell phone at his ear (Russell, 2007)www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdyKAIhLdNs
2. ambivalence
businesses do many things that are ethically praiseworthybut theyalso do some things that are ethicallyquestionableso how are we to feel about the ethicality of business?must we take the rough with the smooth?
naturalization
‘Innaturalization a social formation is abstracted from the historical conflictual site of its origin and treated as a concrete, relatively fixedentity’‘institutionalarrangements are no longer seen as choices but as natural andself-evident’‘[which] protectsthem from examination as produced under specific historical conditions…and out of specific powerrelations’(AlvessonandDeetz, 2005/1996: 75)
things may not have to be the way they are
ambivalence canact as a spur to the exploration of alternative corporate formswhichmay enable us to reap the ethical fruits of business activity whilst avoiding the ethical decay that sometimes comes with it
theory inpractice
the Mondragon Corporation: another way of doing business
key points
the perplexing nature of ethical evaluation need not prevent us from forming well-grounded opinions about business ethicshowever, it should alert us the importance of subjecting those opinions to critique and engaging with perspectives which challenge themwe may not need to accept the ethically problematic features of business practice in order to reap the benefitsrather, ambivalence can act as a spur to the exploration of alternative ways of doing business that are more ethically sustainable
references
Alvesson, M. andDeetz, S. (2005/1996) ‘Criticaltheoryandpostmodernism’, in C. Grey, and H.Willmott, (eds)Critical Management Studies: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp.60–106.Russell, T. (2007) ‘Who’sgonnabuild your wall’, on Assorted Artists,Wounded Heart of America.HighstoneRecords.

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Introduction - study.sagepub.com