Can there be a Universal Ethical Basis for Management?

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Abstract:

The study of contemporary management is very largely framed by the discourse of globalization. While this is primarily an economic term it has come to comprise aspects of neo-liberalism, decreasing powers of sovereign states and a value-system oriented to the presumed universality of the market. Thus in much discourse in schools of business and management the values of “management” are presumed to be universal and to be based on those values that underpin the practices of Western capitalism. The discourse of globalization is presumed to implicate the spread of Western capitalism, and in some sense to justify the values underpinning these economic and political developments. But as there are in the global world diverse cultures and differing norms of behaviour, so there is likely to be more than one “culture of management”.

By “culture” we imply the Geertz definition of culture, which is “essentially a semiotic one. Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning” (Geertz, 1973: 4–5). Systems of meaning, according to Geertz, are the “collective property of a group”.

Raymond Williams elaborates this definition when he explains that “culture is ordinary” and that

Every human society has its own shape, its own purposes, its own meanings. Every human society expresses these, in institutions, and in arts and learning. The making of a society is the finding of common meanings and directions, and its growth is an active debate and amendment under the pressures of experience, contact, and discovery, writing themselves into the land. … Culture is ordinary, in every society and in every mind.” (Williams, 1958: 6).

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • From Critique to Action: The Practical Ethics of the Organizational World
    This book illustrates the application of ethical thinking to business, management and computing. This book brings together some significant areas of leading edge research and scholarship in the context of engagement with communities of practice, locally, regionally and professionally, with international students, police, teachers, housing managers, ambulance workers, etc. Most of the chapters are based on the practical experience of the contributors but written in an accessible way. There is a strong intercultural and transnational flavour in this book. It is explicitly cross-disciplinary, and will appeal to readers from areas like organization analysis, computer studies and information systems as well as philosophy and ethics.
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