Ethics through Corporate Strategy

Ethics through Corporate Strategy

Ethics through Corporate Strategy

Ethics through Corporate Strategy

Synopsis

Ethics Through Corporate Strategy is a daring challenge to anyone who uses the customary language of business in America. It is daring because Daniel Gilbert argues that we should discard two popular ways of linking business and ethics. It is challenging, because Gilbert proceeds from thepremise that everyone who uses a language of business is responsible for the ethical implications of that way of talking. This work is one demonstration of how we can relocate conversations about business in the larger conversation that we know as liberal education.

Excerpt

This book is predicated on a different kind of assumption about what makes business ethics an interesting subject. Some people say that business ethics is interesting because some of our fellow citizens are prone to misconduct and some of that group have been convicted of business misconduct. Some people say that business ethics is interesting because a company can make money by possessing some attribute called ethics. That belief is called corporate social responsibility. Some people say that business ethics is interesting because a company's survival hinges on possessing an attribute called ethics. That belief is called corporate social performance. Some people believe that business ethics is interesting because the term sounds like an oxymoron, and oxymorons are curious things.

I do not believe that these reasons are very interesting because those who advocate each reason have much to say about business (and social science) and next to nothing to say about ethics and what it can mean to be a human being. We can do more interesting things than talk about business as something separate from our humanity.

This book is predicated on the different assumption that business ethics is interesting because business is simply one kind of recurring opportunity for human beings to live meaningful lives in association with one another. Business, on this view, is a practice of the ethical kind. It is simply one kind of human endeavor that happens to be a commonplace human endeavor.

As a corollary to my different assumption, I believe that the problems of business ethics are not solved by arresting more crooks and indoctrinating more people in the "Right" way to belong to an organization. Rather, I believe that the interesting problems in business ethics deal with how human beings talk in a language of business and act accordingly. By focusing on language, we can completely change the discussion about business ethics. Our fingerprints are all over the language of business. The language of business is something that we shape as participants, in our own ways, in the world of business institutions, such as the marketplace and the modern corporation. What is interesting about business ethics, from this angle, is that we each bear a responsibility for how we talk and act in the business world. Business ethics, on this view, is not a subject reserved for the ranks of corporate executives.

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