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The Ethos of Business Practice: A Universal Ethical Basis for the Practice of Business Management?

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“Business ethics” is a fast growing topic in business education. Much published material and pedagogic literature on the topic deals with the ethics of business in a neo-liberal capitalist framework, neglecting issues of post-capitalism or culturally-specific variants such as may be found outside the North American and European regions. However, with the advent of a globalised economy, we now need to deal with the dilemmas facing managers in our increasingly international and inter-cultural classrooms and in our global research and consulting practice. We review some classic accounts of what it is that managers actually do in organisations and maintain that these actions offer a clearer path into the ethical domain than a recapitulation of what codes of practice managers claim to adhere to. We consequently contend that “Management” is not a branch of positive science but a socially constituted phenomenon, a set of social practices embedded in social structures which support cultures that are diverse and emergent, increasingly virtual. This is a fortiori likely to be the case when we consider how managers deal with uncertainty and the consistent experience that even with expert planning and good resources, in practice things do not always work out as they were intended. Increasingly the manager operating in the international context must learn to come to terms with other actors whose cultures and mind-sets are alien and incomprehensible but must nonetheless be understood if action is to proceed. So the “ethics” we need to comprehend are plural and diverse. In this chapter we discuss what kind of ethical principles are appropriate for these diverse inter-cultural business arenas and what classroom processes can sustain the growth of ethical principles fostering enhanced moral consciousness.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2012

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